Grey Highlands council has adopted the new Beaver Valley Sustainable Tourism Strategy.
At its meeting on Nov. 1, council unanimously voted to adopt the strategy and authorize staff to work on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Grey County, Town of The Blue Mountains and Regional Tourism Organization 7 (RTO 7) to advance and implement the strategy.
In the resolution, council also asked that a joint meeting between the county, the two municipalities and RTO 7 be set up to receive the draft MOU once it has been completed.
Project consultant Camilo Montoya-Guevara presented a synopsis of the plan to council and Michele Harris, the municipality’s director of economic and community development, discussed the next steps for the project.
“This project is about balance,” said Harris. “I’m really proud to say I believe this is a really good, solid strategy. It is a foundational strategy. It is a starting point.”
Harris said the four project partners intend to work collaboratively with the entire community and other organizations to advance the goals and visions in the strategy.
“Our job is to relate and work with everybody to find that balance,” she said. “Tourism does not recognize municipal boundaries.”
The plan was well received by members of council. Mayor Paul McQueen said the COVID-19 pandemic was a true learning experience about the importance of tourism to the local economy.
McQueen said the pandemic was an example of “when things stopped moving.”
“Many businesses are still struggling. It is a reflection of an example when tourism stopped,” he said.
Members of council emphasized the importance of collaboration as the project moves into the next phase.
“Part of this is that we continue to talk and continue to work with the stakeholders. That is very important,” said McQueen, who advocated for a joint meeting with all the partners and the public at the time the draft MOU was ready to be presented.
Other members of council agreed.
“It’s all of us making this happen,” said coun. Nadia Dubyk. “There’s still more discussion to be had. This is a long-term strategy.”
Grey County adopted the strategy at its meeting on Oct. 26, but held off moving into the MOU phase until after the 2024 budget process.
Grey Highlands council also heard from former councillor Cathy Little of the Beaver Valley Destination Stewardship group, who urged council to hold off on making a decision on the matter.
“There seems to be no urgency to adopt the strategy. The county deferred until after its budget,” said Little, who asked council to consider all the implications of the strategy before deciding.
Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca