Merritt backing bid to reopen shut down visitor centre

The transition between rest stops on the Coquihalla near Merritt hasn't been seamless.

That's according to the city's mayor Neil Menard, who says he still doesn't understand province's logic in building a new facility at the Loon Lake interchange, instead of upgrading the longtime facility at exit 286, where the highway intersects with the Okanagan Connector.

He says the recent closure of the toilets hasn't been the only problem at Loon Lake, since it opened in January.

"There's a logging operation going on up the hill, there's a gravel road that comes down, and those big logging trucks now have to come down through there to bring those logs out and take them to the mill that they're destined to go to," he said.

"That's not helping the situation either, because people are parked there. The logging trucks are having difficulty getting through, they've got to get people to move. So everybody's upset."

He says city council is backing a proposal from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, which is looking to revitalize the old building as an information and cultural centre.

"It's within city limits, it's always been crown land - it was being looked after by Destination BC. However, the First Nations are trying to negotiate with the government to take it over, and open it up," he said.

"We've suggested to (Forest, Land, and Natural Resources) Minister (Doug) Donaldson that he get his butt in gear and do something there."

Council also sent a letter of support to the provincial government - along with some follow-up correspondence.

"We have had the ear, and do have the ear of Minister Donaldson, because it's not being looked after," he said.

"I've also mentioned it to the premier. I said we're talking to your minister, but we want you to know that it's important to this area, it's important to the traveling public, and you need to get off your butt and do something, and get that place working again."

No alternate plans for the old building have been announced, the replacement of which was announced under the previous Liberal government.