If you’re looking for someone to blame for the Coquihalla Highway morphing into the Yellowhead, look no further than the Trans-Canada Yellowhead Highway Association.
The name might be a little confusing because it includes the words “trans” and “canada” — even though it has nothing to do with the Trans-Canada Highway. The idea is that the Yellowhead is the “alternative” Trans-Canada.
But even this explanation doesn’t entirely clear up the confusion because the Yellowhead exists only in the four western provinces of Canada.
This is just an example of the convoluted logic you’ll find at this not-for-profit agency based in Edmonton. It’s reason for being is to encourage people to take the Yellowhead route and spend their tourism dollars in the towns and cities that it goes through.
The main branch of the Yellowhead heads northwest from Winnipeg and heads up through Saskatoon and Edmonton. It crosses into B.C. and hits Prince George before winding up at the Pacific Ocean and making an ocean voyage to the Queen Charlottes. That part of the story makes sense.
But after traversing the Alberta border, there is a smaller branch that heads south to Kamloops. For some reason, this stretch — officially called Highway 5 — is also known as the Yellowhead and has been for decades.
In 1986, just in time for Expo, B.C. built a new highway from Hope to Kamloops. It was named the Coquihalla, after the nearby river, but was considered to be part of Highway 5. So for more than 20 years, there has been a conflict. Part of Highway 5 was known as the Yellowhead and part as the Coquihalla.
For the majority of motorists, this was not an issue. The two parts of Highway 5 have little in common other than their official designation and entanglement in Kamloops.
Still, the TransCanada Yellowhead Association saw a marketing opportunity, because a Yellowhead that includes the Coq has more cities on it. The group gets its funding from dues paid by communities that it supposedly promotes. With Kamloops, Merritt and Hope on board, that’s more places that can be hit up for money.
If fact, years ago, the association threatened to leave Kamloops off its map if City council didn’t agree to fork out. Just think — if they could have Hope-to-Vancouver also declared part of the Yellowhead, there would be even more cash rolling in.
In the end, we have to face facts. The association may indeed help towns along the main branch of the Yellowhead, but it is a figurehead at best in this part of the country. The Coquihalla is better known and more valuable as a brand.
If anything, Kamloops should team up with Merritt and Hope to create a Coquihalla Highway Association that promotes tourism along the way. Just because it’s part of Highway 5 doesn’t mean the Coq has to be part of an empire-building scheme for Yellowhead marketers.
Let’s do our own thing our own way.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.