EDITORIAL: White Rock needs to overcome identity crisis

White Rock needs to develop a strategy to avoid becoming a 'generic city.'

White Rock is not a generic city – or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

Isn’t that why locals were so vehemently opposed to a 2007 marketing plan that would have branded the city ‘Silver Beach’?

That proposal, which came from a U.S.-based firm, might make sense to an outsider with only a vague sense of the city. But, as opponents pointed out a decade ago, Silver Beach could only have made us sound like a community somewhere closer to California or Florida.

While branding the city, and its seaside appeal, has been on the council agenda for some 16 years now, efforts to date have met only mixed success. And city council – which last year dismantled Tourism White Rock and handed the assignment to Discover Surrey (Surrey Tourism) – still seems inclined to look for outside help.

Last month, Discover Surrey executive director Cathy James presented the city with new marketing slogans ‘Explore White Rock’ and ‘Stay All Day,’ and pointed out that what is really necessary to revitalize the waterfront for tourism is ‘product development.’

Grandiose plans for Memorial Park (currently in abeyance due to the necessity of co-operation from BNSF) to one side, it would be an interesting exercise for council members, as a prelude to developing product, to sit down and list what the city has that might appeal to outsiders.

Natural settings, including the beach and the white rock itself, must surely top the list. Arts, culture and special events get attention in the city, but more practical showcases are needed.

History and heritage? Aside from White Rock’s connection to the Semiahmoo First Nation, this seems to have dwindled down to the pier and the museum – with all its reminders, unpleasant as they may be today, that the railway was largely responsible for building the town.

Restaurants? A sore point with some on council who decry the characterization of ‘ghost town’ when talking about waning commerce on Marine Drive. Yet the establishment of a Marine Drive Business Task Force by the city this week seems a clear, if belated, acknowledgment that some sort of action is necessary to counter the current malaise.

But let’s forget architecture and development in this catalogue of product; in its embrace of post-modernism over the last 20 years, White Rock must now show a stronger argument that it is more than a generic city.