Grey County is taking the lead to develop a comprehensive tourism strategy for Beaver Valley.
At its most recent meeting, county council received an update about the ambitious project from the director of economic development, tourism and culture, Savanna Myers. Beaver Valley stretches from Flesherton in the south all the way to Georgian Bay in the north and includes communities like Eugenia, Kimberley, Clarkburg and Thornbury. It includes major landmarks like Old Baldy, Duncan Crevice Caves, Hogg’s Falls and Eugenia Falls.
Myers explained that the popularity of the Beaver Valley area as a tourism destination has exploded in recent years as it has been discovered by the rest of Ontario.
“It is one of our region’s most popular tourism drivers,” she said.
The increased popularity of the area and growing number of visitors have created challenges and currently there is confusion about who has responsibility for planning to deal with the higher visibility of the area.
The project was included in the 2023 budget at $50,000. Myers said the county has received a provincial grant for the study to help offset the costs.
She said the plan is to bring together all the various stakeholder groups to come up with a complete strategy for Beaver Valley.
“How do we, together with our partners, come up with a long-term vision and plan and initiate some first steps over the next couple of years to get us to where we want to be,” said Myers.
The study is expected to take most of the year as the county and its consultants gather data and information. Partners for the project include: the Town of The Blue Mountains, the Municipality of Grey Highlands, the provincial government and RTO7.
“Where do we want to go as a region? Right now we don’t have the visitor amenities or tourism infrastructure. We don’t have any consistent branding. We have no positioning,” said Myers. “Whose role and responsibility is it to develop tourism in the area in a strategic way?”
The plan was well received by members of county council.
Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen encouraged the county team to reach out to the Niagara Escarpment Commission and include them in the study.
“There is a relationship there that can work,” he said.
Myers said the NEC would be included as a stakeholder.
The Blue Mountains Mayor Andrea Matrosovs welcomed the project.
“We are very supportive over at the Town of The Blue Mountains,” said Matrosovs, who said her town has experienced an influx of visitors which has led to parking issues. “It really lends itself as a full-on county activity.”
Matrosovs encouraged the county team to involve the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and the Municipality of Meaford.
“I look forward to working in partnership,” she said.
Meaford Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney said her community would be happy to participate and collaborate.
“We’d certainly love to be part of this. We know that there are no borders,” said Keaveney.
A final report is expected in December 2023.