If town receives funding for a cruise ship dock, West End communities are encouraged to tie in

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GORE BAY – As the Western Manitoulin Community Network (WMCN) works together to help drive forward economic development and marketing of Western Manitoulin, the mayor of the Town of Gore Bay said that if the town receives a positive answer on funding for a marina project, they would welcome other communities and First Nations on Western Manitoulin to put their plans in process to tie in with this and help with promoting their points of interest. 

“The idea is to try and promote and create things to attract people to visit and live on Western Manitoulin, and including everyone on Western Manitoulin, to benefit,” Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne told members of the Western Manitoulin Community Network at a meeting the group held last week. “One place everyone could benefit from would be having a cruise ship dock. It would provide a great opportunity for everyone, with tour boats and promoting points of interest from all our communities and First Nations. Everyone could benefit. If we get funding to expand our marina it would include a cruise ship dock. We have been informed applying for a cruise ship dock would provide us the best chance of getting funding, and if this takes place we could all benefit.”

The cruise ships of Viking Cruises will be visiting Little Current and Killarney in the future, “and those who are travelling to the Island are coming for experiential tourism visits and to see what things an area offers,” said Mr. Osborne. He said this is where a cruise ship docking in Gore Bay in the future could benefit everyone on Western Manitoulin, by promoting and marketing each community and First Nation.

April Folz, a representative of the Sheshegwaning First Nation, said her community, “is going forward with our roads projects; providing access to our trails and lodge. We are also hoping to get a marina feasibility study completed.” She pointed out other projects the community is working on is the development of a new elementary school as well as a community leadership centre. “We are hoping for construction in 2020-2021.”

Jim Martin, representative for Dawson Township, said the Dawson Citizens Improvement Association would be meeting with WMCN and has ideas on things that can be done to make the community more attractive-looking. 

“As Dan indicated, having cruise ships visiting anywhere on the Island could be huge for the entire area,” said Mike Addison. 

During the meeting the attendees adopted the terms of reference. Brad Hawke, the Economic Development Officer for WMCN, reported on the work he and Diane Newlands have been carrying out, such as meeting with Western Manitoulin municipal and First Nations CAO/clerks and councils, along with communicating with local representatives. He also provided a spreadsheet of data that has been accumulated which has been updated with everything there is for instance in terms of services, businesses and attractions for all of Western Manitoulin. 

“When you look at the data list it’s incredible the number of businesses we have on Western Manitoulin,” said Mr. Addison. 

“And we still might not have all of them on the list,” said Mr. Hawke. He outlined that since the WMCN met in October he has attended many different functions and meetings locally and provincially, and had organized a workshop by the Trillium Foundation. 

At his meetings with municipal and First Nation representatives, Mr. Hawke told the meeting “we talked about each community putting tougher a list of three priorities; and we have requested to have this list by mid-February, on your specific top-three priorities. We want to get everyone’s input to see if there is overlap, and if there is maybe we can focus on say one project for the whole region.” 

“What we would like to do is have a meeting with municipal and First Nation councils, meet with the community, or both. That way we can get all the ideas together in a mini-strategic plan,” said Mr. Hawke. “This way we get community input.”

While it’s a good idea to get each community’s priority list, Mr. Martin said that it may not be feasible for mid-February because some have businesses that are not open in the winter.

Mr. Hawke has looked at a website design for WMCN, said Ms. Newlands, who said no commitments have been made on who will develop the website and funding is being sought as well. She pointed out work has also been started on looking at funding sources for a study to be done to determine tourism numbers for Western Manitoulin, and signage that would be used to encourage people to visit the area.

Mr. Addison noted that “I think we (WMCN) can do a better job in communicating with all municipalities  and First Nations on Western Manitoulin. “We are going to try and make sure everyone is kept in the loop on everything. I would like to see a quarterly report sent out before our meetings so (WMCN) members have a chance to read this information before the meetings take place.”

“Brad has done a great job and he has collected a lot of information for us, and the community meeting idea is a very good one. We need feedback,” continued Mr. Addison. “I do have some sad news to report tonight. Brad is leaving us at the end of the month (January) for another position. We are sorry to see you go, you have done a lot, making contacts and getting to know people in the communities and gathering a lot of necessary information. You have done a great job,” he said, noting Mr. Hawke’s last day (was January 31).

The position of EDO for the WMCN will be posted. “We are sorry to see Brad go, but the project will continue,” said Mr. Addison.