Recipient: The Municipality of Dysart et al
Region: Haliburton Highlands
The Municipality of Dysart et al, made up of the United Townships of Dysart, Dudley, Harcourt, Guilford, Harburn, Bruton, Havelock, Eyre and Clyde, is as old as Canada itself. Established in 1867, the community is located on a high stretch of the Canadian Shield, boasting spectacular natural resources of rock cliffs, hundreds of fresh water lakes and dense coniferous forests. The population swells in the summer, with tens of thousands of visitors escaping their urban homes to be refreshed in Dysart’s natural beauty.
Haliburton is the main village in the municipality, with Head Lake Park offering a canvas for local picnics, water sports, arts and crafts festivals and other signature events. Every year the demand to book the park increases due its prime location and popularity, to the point where there are no free weekends left during the summer months. In the winter season, Head Lake Park offers snowmobile parking to welcome back-country snow enthusiasts to the warmth of Haliburton’s restaurants and cafés. There’s only one thing missing: an all-season visitors’ centre.
The current visitors’ centre is housed in an historic railway caboose, a nod to Haliburton’s history as the northern-most stop of the Victoria (Canadian National) Railway. While the location is quaint, it does not provide adequate space, accessible entrances or have access to heat or running water.
The building of an all-season visitors’ centre with wifi access and gender-neutral washrooms may not sound like a glamorous project, but to Chief Administrative Officer Tamara Wilbee, the benefits are numerous. “With this location right in the park we can provide canoe and kayak rentals in the summer and expand our snowshoe program in the winter,” says Wilbee. “Once construction is completed, we will have year-round tourism information and events staff available in the park which will greatly benefit our winter and shoulder tourism, since this will be the first point of contact for snowmobiles entering the village. This Visitor Centre is an integral component of the new Head Lake Park Master Plan which is currently being developed with stakeholder input to create a new vision for Head Lake Park overall.”
With a contribution of $375,000 from the Canadian Experiences Fund through FedDev Ontario, this building is becoming a reality. The project will provide tourists and local residents with a central location for information about the area, directions to local destinations and access to clean and modern washroom facilities. Having a heated centre also opens opportunities to increase winter and shoulder season attractions and add tourism staff for year-round service. As park facilities are improved, the benefits will reach directly to local businesses. A beautiful location at the best of times, this simple yet critical amenity will position Head Lake Park in Haliburton as the go-to destination for tourists wanting to discover all that the region has to offer.