By Anna Smith
This year saw several improvements to the Cypress County Welcome Centre in Walsh, with this being their first year open five days a week.
Communications Coordinator Sean Rooney gave a report on his findings at the Oct. 3 Cypress County Council meeting, and the end results were clear: since the County had taken over the centre, they’ve continued to see growth in how much it is utilized and the service provided is a significant boon to travellers.
“We heard how happy people were that we were open and that the services we provide were essential. The comment section in our guestbook page received only positive feedback. Some highlights from this feedback were how clean our bathrooms are, and how they enjoyed using our picnic area and games,” said Rooney in the report.
Compared to the previous year, the centre saw a significant jump in visitors; even with the additional operating days, the average number of visitors in the 2023 season jumped from 38 people to 50 people in a day, marking a large increase in how many people were using the facilities on any given day.
The centre was busy throughout the summer, ranging from people stopping in with and without plans for their trips, those on their way back from their longer vacations, to people looking to escape the smoke from this summer’s general conditions.
The smoke was a limiting factor during Celebrate Cypress County Day, which had been hosted on July 15, but overall, the event was considered a success with $333 dollars made at the newly-renamed Badlands Boutique.
A particularly popular attraction is “Ralph the Raptor,” notes Rooney, a statue within the centre of a velociraptor. Their collection of maps and brochures were also highly utilized, receiving some complaints about a lack of traditional folded maps. Also very positive was the response to their social media presence, such as the TikTok account, which remains in use at a lower volume even after the closing of the centre for the winter with some local happenings.
“Our community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive this season, with many people leaving positive comments in our guestbook or reaching out through other means such as online reviews to give thanks for our services,” said Rooney.
Recommendations for the future included having a vending machine available for travellers, as well as signage to indicate the location and open status of the centre.
“We gave out Cypress County pens and temporary tattoos. Travellers were happy to receive these items, but many asked about Alberta-themed merchandise such as stickers. We believe this could be a popular addition to our Badlands Boutique,” said Rooney in the report. “Many people are looking for Alberta-themed things so there is an opportunity for Alberta stickers, hats, and T-shirts.”