Wiar­ton cham­ber seeks $45,800 from town for tourist of­fice

Wiarton Echo - - NEWS - Zoe Kessler Ed­i­tor

Paul Dea­con, pres­i­dent of the Wiar­ton & District Cham­ber of Com­merce, has asked the town of South Bruce Penin­sula for $45,800 to house a tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tre at the cham­ber of­fices in Wiar­ton.

In his sub­mis­sion to coun­cil for con­sid­er­a­tion at its 2017 bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions, Dea­con said both the cham­ber and the Wiar­ton Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Com­mit­tee agreed there was a need to pro­vide tourism in­for­ma­tion and to en­cour­age tourists to stay lo­cal in­stead of mov­ing on.

In an in­ter­view Dec. 30, Dea­con said the fund­ing would sup­port two staff mem­bers over the ini­tial year of op­er­a­tion and pay for road sig­nage for the pro­posed tourist of­fice.

The cham­ber would re­con­fig­ure its of­fices and pro­vide fix­tures to house tourism-re­lated brochures from busi­nesses in both South and North­ern Bruce Penin­sula.

It would also make its wash­rooms avail­able to tourists and add to its $1,500 in Wiar­ton Wil­lie-re­lated mer­chan­dise cur­rently avail­able, Dea­con said.

Due to its prox­im­ity to Wil­lie’s en­clo­sure, near Blue­wa­ter Park, Dea­con said tourists are al­ready com­ing into the cham­ber of­fices ask­ing about vis­i­tor at­trac­tions and Wiar­ton Wil­lie.

He said it would be a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion to of­fer ser­vice in a more “qual­i­fied way” rather than, “what we’re do­ing right now where we’re mul­ti­task­ing the daily rou­tine.”

Dea­con said an av­er­age of about three hours a day is cur­rently spent by cham­ber staff to pro­vide tourist in­for­ma­tion over the sum­mer months.

He added hav­ing a tourist of­fice at the cham­ber of com­merce lo­ca­tion ties in well with Wiar­ton’s new streetscape plan, which em­pha­sizes draw­ing traf­fic down to Blue­wa­ter Park and the wa­ter­front.

“The per­cep­tion is to say that we need to have a tourism in­for­ma­tion booth on the high­way, but I feel if it’s on the high­way and peo­ple stop be­fore town, there’s re­ally no rea­son to stop again. You’ve made your stop, you’ve got your in­for­ma­tion and you’re off,” Dea­con said.

If fund­ing from the Town is “not a vi­able op­tion,” Dea­con said the cham­ber will look into fed­eral fund­ing.

Dea­con has ap­proached Ch­eryl Brine, agri­cul­tural & ru­ral eco­nomic devel­op­ment ad­vi­sor for the On­tario Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Food & Ru­ral Af­fairs, who said “there might be some fund­ing,” but they had not yet met to dis­cuss the plan.

Cit­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of North­ern Bruce Penin­sula and the Tober­mory Cham­ber of Com­merce, Saugeen Shores and other com­mu­ni­ties in the sur­round­ing area, Dea­con said South Bruce Penin­sula is one of the few mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that has no tourism ini­tia­tive or part­ner­ships be­tween the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and the cham­ber of com­merce or BIA.

In an in­ter­view Jan. 4, Jan­ice Jack­son, Mayor of South Bruce Penin­sula, said Dea­con had some “very valid points,” adding the town used to pro­vide tourist in­for­ma­tion at the train sta­tion in Blue­wa­ter Park, but last sum­mer no one ap­plied for the sum­mer po­si­tion.

The pre­vi­ous year, she said, the town hired “an ex­tra per­son,” ex­tended the train sta­tion hours, and opened seven days a week to han­dle tourism over­flow.

An­other plan by a num­ber of stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing Parks Canada, was con­sid­ered two years ago, she said.

An ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a tourist of­fice at the Wiar­ton Wil­lie sign on High­way 6 at the en­trance to Wiar­ton failed when Parks Canada, who “were pro­vid­ing the lion’s share” of fund­ing, backed out, she said.

As for the Wiar­ton cham­ber’s pro­posal, “It’s off the beaten trail,” she said, adding, “If we throw $45,000 into a tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tre in Wiar­ton, Sauble Beach would be­come very vo­cal.”

For­merly, the town pro­vided an of­fice space for a Sauble Beach tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tre, she said, ask­ing Sauble Beach to pro­vide the staffing.

Two years ago it closed when Sauble Beach asked the town to pay for staff as well and were de­nied.

“My thought, which I will be propos­ing to coun­cil for dis­cus­sion, would be to put the tourism cen­tre at the main cor­ner in Hep­worth,” Jack­son said, sug­gest­ing a va­cant church on the north­east cor­ner owned by the town as a pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion.

“To me, that makes way more sense be­cause then we can ser­vice Sauble Beach, Wiar­ton and Hep­worth. That’s re­ally the gate­way to the Penin­sula.”

Coun­cil’s func­tion is to “look af­ter the en­tire mu­nic­i­pal­ity,” she said, adding, “the whole mu­nic­i­pal­ity is tourism-driven.”

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