50-foot Highlander gets OK
South Glengarry council has given the thumbs-up to pursue funding for a proposed roadside tourist attraction in Lancaster – a 50-foot-tall Highlander statue – discussed during budget talks this past March.
According to the minutes from the township’s strategic planning talks held in Morrisburg on June 22 and 23, council directed administration to apply to the Canadian Experiences Fund “to create a tourist investment attraction” following a presentation by Shauna Baggs, the municipality’s economic development and tourism coordinator, on the second day of the sessions.
Mrs. Baggs confirmed with The News last week that the application – in the amount of $400,000 – is being submitted with an eye towards putting up the statue “somewhere off the highway (401) in Lancaster.”
Announced in the 2019 federal budget, the Canadian Experiences Fund (CEF) is a two-year, $58.5 million national program “to support communities across Canada as they create, improve, or enhance tourism products, facilities and experiences,” according to the (federal) Canada Economic Development website.
CEF funding is delivered through the regional development agency in the applicant’s respective region – in South Glengarry’s case, FedDev Ontario. The program “normally targets investments that range from $25,000 to $500,000 for projects” that focus on several “priority segments,” including tourism in rural and remote communities, winter and shoulder season tourism, and farm-to-table, or culinary, tourism.
Mrs. Baggs explained that the application she filed last week would cover the cost of the statue, the landscaping around it, “and a few other small details.”
And while she told The News that the township has yet to procure a spot for the statue, and that “potential properties” for the project are being evaluated, a possible site was mentioned during the aforementioned budget deliberations in the spring.
However, that tract of land – near the juncture of South Beech Street and County Road 34/Military Road South, practically kitty-corner to the Pilot Flying J/Denny’s truck stop – is currently owned by the French Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario.
According to Mrs. Baggs, the statue initiative already has some unofficial upper-tier government backing.
“I spoke to one of the representatives for the (CEF) program,” she said. “I just kind of gave her a very high-level overview of what the project involved, and she was very excited for it, and thought it was a good fit.” Mrs. Baggs is equally enthused. “I was at the ‘Big Apple’ (off Highway 401 near Colborne) a couple of weeks ago, coming back from Toronto,” she said of the landmark stop for motorists going to and from Toronto which features a bakery offering on-site prepared apple pies, bread and other treats, a counter-serve dining area/restaurant, petting zoo, and many other attractions.
“And they’ve created a whole industry there now...There were six tour buses parked there when we stopped.”
Mrs. Baggs foresees the possibility of a similar scenario in South Glengarry.
“The initial investment (for the statue project) is going to be quite large. However, the impact is going to be for years to come,” she said.
“People might first turn off the highway to get a picture, then they might go to the restaurants down the street, or do a bit of shopping...I think it will be really great,” she said.