Thinking big at Lake Superior
by Sylvio (Hoss) Pelletier
The summer of 2017 was memorable not just for Canada 150, but also for the gathering of great minds participating in the development of the Visitor Experience Strategy for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA). The collaboration set the stage for the future of tourism development for the region.
The Visitor Experience Strategy is a 9-step process developed by Parks Canada to determine the best ways to engage visitors, meet their needs and surpass their expectations. Typically, this exercise is done in-house by Parks Canada staff, but because of the uniqueness of the Lake Superior NMCA it was decided the best approach here would be to engage regional stakeholders and partners in a collaborative effort to create a vision for the future together.
To begin the process, Lake Superior NMCA hired the consulting team of BC Hughes. BC Hughes has intimate knowledge of the region, having completed projects for Tourism Northern Ontario on the circle tour route, RV and motor cycle touring and product development. With this knowledge, the consultant was able to lead the group through various exercises to get people thinking and release their creative potential. One exercise in particular, the “Essence of Place Statement”, initiated much active participation (from interpretive dance to loon calls). This statement created by the group captures the spirit of this very special place and provides inspiration for visitors and locals to explore Lake Superior NMCA, as well as nearby communities and businesses, and get to know the people who call this place home.
Over the course of the summer, four one-day workshops were held to complete the nine steps identified in the process. In total there were 7 staff from Parks Canada and 19 regional participants, including representatives from Thunder Bay, Tourism Northern Ontario, Ontario Parks, Lakehead University, Métis Nation of Ontario, Silver Islet, Dorion, Red Rock, Nipigon, Red Rock Indian Band, Rossport, Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Ministry of Transportation and other stakeholders who took part in the workshops.
A HUGE thank you goes out to the regional representatives in completing this strategy. On December 7, Lake Superior NMCA invited the workshop participants and members of the Interim Liaison Committee, as well as representatives from FedNor and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, for the formal presentation of the Visitor Experience Strategy.
This document identifies opportunities for neighbouring communities, stakeholders and private entrepreneurs and it will inform the Marine Access Development Plan, which in turn will guide the investment planning for the NMCA in the future.