Give change a rest

You don't see London and Paris hiring a consultant to change their names

What do ‘Oceanside’ and wild salmon have in common? A fair number of issues, actually, but let’s consider the one in the news. Both of them appear to be on the verge of being replaced. On the other hand Oceanside Tourism, while wishing to replace the first, would dearly love to see the latter thrive and survive.

Not too long ago, the tourist entity lumped all our unique communities together; from Nanoose to Deep Bay and west to Coombs, Errington and Hilliers our individuality was buried under the vague moniker, ‘Oceanside’ … beside which some of us do not live, play and work. A bit of a plagiarist move, too, when there actually is a real municipality on this coast by the same name — Oceanside, California.

But we had to have a brand name. In the bad old days we probably had a name unique to any area in the world – remember ‘District 69’? The old title still lingers in a few businesses, but most took the plunge for new signage and letterhead and moved their activities to the side of the ocean.

Once upon a time there was a contest where residents of District 69 could suggest a brand name and have it considered as the latest catchall. Probably that gooey “The Island’s Jewel” caught only a very few unwary flies. Part of the district had already named itself ‘Lighthouse Country’ and that suited it admirably for those welcoming beacons were visible from nearly every part of it. When it comes right down to it, that would have been a fine brand for the whole district, as even lonely Sisters Lightstation was visible from some of the more westerly locations.

But that catchy ‘Oceanside’ was the winner and we did our best to use the term without gagging on it. I have to admit it has crept into my writing innumerable times as a way to save on the word count when I have other deathless prose waiting to find its way into print.

I don’t recall how old our very own ‘Oceanside’ is, but certainly Coombs and Bowser needn’t worry about losing their seniority. In fact those communities will be the survivors now that Oceanside seems doomed to an early demise.

Just a few weeks ago “… the most comprehensive research project that has ever been done on visitor and local tourism stakeholder perception in its history,” was launched. It seems this project came to the launching pad because, wonders of wonders, “ … less than one per cent of the travel market relates to ‘Oceanside.” Just no matter which magnifying glass you use, you can’t find Oceanside on a map of Vancouver Island. … it isn’t on it … anybody out there have the GPS coordinates for Oceanside?. Oh … the one in B.C., you mean.

It isn’t on our maps because it doesn’t exist, or at the least it has a location only in the minds of those seeking the travel, accommodation and recreation dollar. But not to worry, there may be a “branding consultant” in the wings ready with proposals, names, and a review of “ … current visitor and local resident perceptions …” Of course there will be public involvement (another contest?) while we and the expert put our heads together to come up with the the essence of these places we call home. And someone has come up with the idea that “Geographical place names are more important than ever.”

Well, there’s your answer, there’s your ‘brand’. Who are we? We’re Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanoose, Errington … Hey! We had names all the time — on the map too.

Sure, our names may not generate the same colourful internal map and yearnings as Athens or St. Petersburg, but give us time … and give us back our real names … Deep Bay, Coombs …

Yes, Mr. Sepos, “The world has changed.” But you don’t see London and Paris hiring a consultant to come up with a name change. To loosely quote old Popeye, “We yam what we yam!