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Loss of Minter Gardens lamented by Chilliwack leaders

Minter Gardens will be closing at the end of this season. Founder, Brian Minter, seen here with daughter Lisa Minter-Bustin, says he
Minter Gardens will be closing at the end of this season. Founder, Brian Minter, seen here with daughter Lisa Minter-Bustin, says he's looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren, Katie and Sam Bustin.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

The news of the impending closure Minter Gardens later this year is hitting Chilliwack hard.

Tourism Chilliwack head Brian Coombes said the gardens will be exceedingly hard to replace from a destination tourist point of view.

"It will be just a tremendous loss for the entire tourism industry, not only in the Fraser Valley but across all of B.C.," he said. "A world-class garden attraction that welcomed guests for 33 years is not something easily replaced."

The family showed great leadership and initiative.

"The Minters were pioneers in tourism for the region in the 1980s. They had the vision to create something spectacular; that would be a draw for the entire Fraser Valley. They led the way in a number of ways from the attraction to marketing.

"The gardens became iconic and to have them close will be significant."

CEPCO board chair John Jansen called the decision "a loss not only for the community but for the entire province."

Minter Gardens was the kind of stellar attraction that Jansen would regularly send visitors to without hesitation.

"As a large attraction in beautiful surroundings, the natural ambiance was absolutely wonderful," he said.

When Brian Minter told Jansen he would be shutting down the gardens come fall, Jansen said it made him quite emotional.

"The location had so much going for it, it was just perfect. But it's understandable that if you can't make ends meet, you can't survive."

It is hoped efforts will be successful at making the site viable for another enterprise in the future.

"I don't know what they're planning to do exactly, but certainly we would be willing to help out in whatever way we could."

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said it was sad for her on both a personal and professional level, as a retired pastor.

"I conducted many weddings in Minter Gardens and I know just how stunningly beautiful it was."

She acknowledged the loss of it on a tourism infrastructure level for the region.

"But looking at it from a practical point of view, like that of the Minters, they also gave the gardens 33 wonderful years, and they worked hard to make all of Chilliwack proud."

People from all over the world have told the mayor how much they enjoyed the verdant wonder that is Minter Gardens.

"I know it was not a decision they made lightly," Gaetz said. "Brian has been a very vocal advocate for horticulture in our community."

She's relieved the store and greenhouses on Young Road will remain, and that Minter is still involved with UFV, and the school of agriculture.

"I know we will still be able to use his expertise. Brian is one of only four to have received the Order of Chilliwack, and he is highly esteemed and respected."

The Order of Chilliwack was created to recognize citizens for outstanding achievement or long term contributions. Minter served as the first Chancellor of the University of the Fraser Valley, as a board member of Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation and as the Chair of Tourism Chilliwack, to name a few. While Minter retired as chair of Tourism Chilliwack in 2011, he stayed on the board as past chair.

The mayor is resolute about a bright future.

"Let's see what phase 2 brings," Gaetz added.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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