Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
GRAVENNHURST — A new start for the Muskoka Wharf is planned for this fall in Gravenhurst.
The town is spending $70,000 on a plan to re-invigorate the 13-year-old park and tourist attraction on Lake Muskoka.
Stage one of the project, development of the plan, will be funded in part by the provincial government through their Rural Economic Development Program.
The approved budget for stage 1 is $70,000, which includes a $35,000 contribution from Ontario.
“Planning Underway to Enhance the Muskoka Wharf: Wharf Revitalization Project will Engage with Stakeholders to Help Stimulate Growth will focus its attention on the revitalization of the Muskoka Wharf.”
“The Wharf is a remarkable site with some great things happening, but it hasn’t fulfilled its original vision to become a signature destination for our region,” said Mayor Paul Kelly in a release Wednesday. “The downtown core has benefited from ongoing revitalization efforts and now it’s time to use a similar approach to look at ways to improve the Wharf.”
Although the Wharf has recently experienced some exciting retail development, there are still several undeveloped parcels of land. Three years of feedback from an Annual Business Review Survey has revealed a number of
challenges, those include; higher turnover of businesses located at the Wharf, a lower than average (business) satisfaction rate when compared to the rest of the Town and Province, a feeling of disconnect from the downtown, less business reinvestment, and consistent challenges with seasonality. Based on this data, the Town’s Economic Development team identified the Wharf as the next logical business area to focus strategic economic development efforts.
As a preliminary step, the Town of Gravenhurst is leading a year-long Muskoka Wharf Revitalization Project supported by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs through the Rural Economic Development (RED) program.
“I’m pleased to see the Muskoka Wharf project in Gravenhurst get underway. The Rural Economic Development program is helping communities across Ontario become investment ready and open for business,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“The Muskoka Wharf is a great tourist attraction and further development here will attract more visitors and create much needed jobs in Gravenhurst,” said Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka. “Our government’s investment in this development illustrates our commitment creating jobs across Ontario.”
In July, a Wharf Revitalization Coordinator was contracted to facilitate the development of a strategic action plan for improvements at the Wharf. “The Muskoka Wharf is a key tourism attraction and a tremendous asset to Gravenhurst and to Muskoka,” said Leanne Fetterley, Wharf revitalization coordinator. “This project represents an opportunity to collaborate with businesses, as well as local organizations and groups to develop an action plan to help the Wharf reach its full potential.”
A comprehensive consultation process will take place this fall. Data and feedback will be collected through focus groups, surveys, and phone and/or in-person interviews. The results will be used to develop achievable strategic
actions that will form the core of the plan. Several organizations will act as advisory committees in this process including the Muskoka Wharf Association, the Board of the Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre, and Gravenhurst Council.
A ‘free’ project launch event will take place September 11, at the Residence Inn by Marriott Muskoka Wharf starting at 5:00 pm, featuring special guests Leslie Fournier and Gregg McLachlan from Your Town Rising. Hear exciting ideas from Leslie and Gregg and share your vision for the future of the Muskoka Wharf. Refreshments will be served – all are welcome! ToRSVP, please contact the Wharf Revitalization Coordinator; Leanne.Fetterley@gravenhurst.ca.
For more information, please refer to the project page on the Town’s website:www.gravenhurst.ca/WharfPlan