canada.com - Oceanside Tourism hopes tales of Sasquatches and lake monsters will draw new tourists to a region better known for grey-haired retirees than mythical beasts.
A team from the B.C. Scientific Cryptozoology Club visited the area in September, after an invitation from the tourism agency, to probe the depths of Cameron Lake for evidence of creatures locals have swapped stories about for years. The area has also led to enough people reporting Sasquatch sightings to attract the attention of two film crews.
The region's monstrous reputation is now gaining more attention, and Oceanside Tourism is capitalizing. Last month, the organization invited media to take a road trip to write "on the many eclectic man-made, natural and possibly supernatural attractions found in the region."
Legends about mysterious creatures likely won't be the main draw for most visitors to the area, but the exposure doesn't hurt.
Tourism gurus in Kelowna, "home" to the famous Ogopogo lake monster, say hyping the more mythical aspects of the region is a smart way to gain exposure and draw different visitors. Oceanside officials are already noticing the added attention as news of their creature-connection spreads.
"There are thousands and thousands of people interested in cryptids (creatures that may or may not exist). So if they want to come over to the Oceanside region to have a look, then that's wonderful," said Luba Plotnikoff, spokeswoman for Oceanside Tourism.
John Kirk, co-founder of the B.C. Scientific Cryptozoology Club, said that he discovered enough evidence in Cameron Lake to make him want to return for more research. He's not the only one captivated by what could lurk beneath the surface. A 2007 sighting of a creature here first sparked interest in the lake and its legends, according to Oceanside Tourism, but tales of something dwelling in these waters were first shared among First Nations people long before Europeans arrived.
Meanwhile, there have been a number of Sasquatch sightings along Highway 4 between Parksville and Port Alberni, a route Kirk refers to as the "cryptid corridor." The area has been the location of a Sasquatch film and a History Channel TV program.
But it's the unique stories of a Cameron Lake monster that appear to fascinate people most.
Plotnikoff said it was important to have the B.C. Scientific Cryptozoology Club study this much-talked about phenomena.
"We're not in the business of pretending. If we can provide authentic information about what it is that's here, then it's more reliable," she said. "It (the legend) has a lot longer legs if information is credible rather than made up."
The Cameron Lake monster story gained steam after the cryptozoology club's visit, said Plotnikoff; more national media and interested travellers began contacting her office while hits on the Oceanside Tourism website spiked by 60%.
"It certainly did create a huge interest from the whole nation," she said.
Tourism officials in Kelowna can relate. The legendary Ogopogo has attracted plenty of researchers looking to finally get some concrete evidence of the creature. Local municipalities and tourism agencies built on this interest about a decade ago by offering $1 million to anyone with concrete evidence of the monster.
Catherine Frechette, spokesperson for Tourism Kelowna, said Ogopogo was already a popular enough character that it didn't require much promotion on their part. The cryptid-seekers went to them.
But she said Oceanside's promotion of the Cameron Lake creature is a well-timed move with the 2010 Winter Olympics coming to B.C.
One of the Games mascots -- Quatchi -- is a Sasquatch after all.
"There is an interest in mythical beings right now on the world stage as far as tourism and media goes," said Frechette. "As far as bringing awareness of the Oceanside area in the media, it's a great strategy because you're reaching many viewers on TV or many readers of newspapers who may have not known of Oceanside before."
Frechette said she can see parallels between Ogopogo and the Cameron Lake creature, especially with both legends long-rooted in aboriginal history.
"This isn't something that Oceanside Tourism spun out of nothing or that we spun out of nothing, it's got roots and legends. So it's a very important part of our culture in both of our areas," she said.