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Near North tourism plan unveiled.

Near North tourism plan unveiled

Tourism revenues in Ontario's Near North could double if a recently completed development and marketing plan is implemented, says Ross Kenzie, North Bay's tourism and convention officer.

"The money that would be changing hands would be remarkable," said Kenzie, who added that the impact on the local economy would be "practically ubelievable."

The Tourism Development Concept and Strategy for the Mattawa-North Bay-Sturgeon Falls area on Ontario's Near North was presented to North Bay city council late last month after 18 months of research and preparation by Pannell Kerr Forster of Toronto in association with three local consulting firms.

Pannell Kerr Forster was hired by the Near North Tourism Task Force, a group comprised of representatives from the city, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Nipissing East Community Opportunities Corporation and the North Bay and District Museum Board.

The 29-page document calls for an ambitious series of developments extending from Mattawa to Sturgeon Falls and from Novar to Martin River. Its two key components are a destination attraction called Heritage North and a convention facility, both recommended for North Bay.

The 10 people who make up the task force steeering committee are expected to discuss the strategy's recommendations with North Bay council. It is hoped that the council will approve the plan and set up an action committee to initiate its implementation.

"Not far down the road we are hoping to present the plans to senior levels of government," said task force chairman Jay Aspin.

Aspin predicts that construction on the initial stages of the massive development could begin as early as next year.

"All our facts and figures are based on starting next year," said Aspin.

"Realistically, construction of the entire project would probably take five to seven years - as long as we are prepared for the 21st century. It doesn't have to be done overnight," he said. Identifying the Near North as a tourism area approaching maturity, Pannell Kerr Forster said the opportunity still exists to attract more tourists and to extend their stay by integrating existing and new tourism developments into an overall tourism development strategy.

The consulting firm estimated that the value of tourism to the area was $201 million in 1989.

"If growth is to be maintained and enhanced, product development and expansion is necessary to continue to attract tourists and provide a complimentary destination to those areas against which the North Bay-Sturgeon Falls-Mattawa area is positioned," the consultants stated.

The Heritage North attraction on North Bay's waterfront would serve as the "hook," drawing people to the area. It would include a rail tour through historical exhibits, an interactive theatre, a museum, a food court, retail shops and a marketplace for arts and crafts.

The plan recommends a hotel, conference centre and regional shopping mall be developed on the rail lands adjacent to the waterfront.

The strategy also identifies several "secondary opportunities" in North Bay, including a steam train excursion, a multipurpose trail system and plant tours of such facilities as the North American Air Defence Agreement (NORAD) base in North Bay.

The strategy identifies three major areas of consideration in Sturgeon Falls. These are a waterfront development on Minneha-ha Bay, specialty food and retail outlets, and plant tours of facilities such as the MacMillan Bloedel hardboard plant and the Field Lumber mill.

The strategy identifies the further development of the Mount Antoine ski resort in Mattawa as a significant component. Other developments recommended for the area are the completion of the Lake Temiskaming/Ottawa River waterway and construction of a four-seasons resort.

According to Aspin, to ensure that maximum benefit is gained from the strategy, partnerships between private corporations, foundations, interest groups and all levels of government must be formed.

Kenzie predicts that attracting private-sector investment will not be a problem. He said the plan contains "very serious numbers" which the business community will find very interesting.

"People are only nibbling around the edge of the plate now," joked Kenzie.

Aspin said that if the plan is carried out, the developments would act as a "recession fighter" in the future.

The report singles out Science North in Sudbury and Old Fort William in Thunder Bay as examples of the excellent co-operation which can be achieved by these different groups once the partnerships have been established.

PHOTO : A $40-million destination attraction entitled Heritage North is a key component of the Tourism Development Concept and Strategy for Ontario's Near North developed by Pannell Kerr Forster of Toronto in association with three North Bay consulting firms.

PHOTO : Task force chairman JAY ASPIN: Construction of the huge project could last into the 21st century.

DOUGLAS MCDOUGALL Staff Writer
COPYRIGHT 1991 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:781
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