By Stephen Petrick
County councillors want to get the tourism industry moving again; they’ve given a hearty endorsement for Hike Haliburton Winter Edition, 2022.
Council gave the green light for staff to begin preparing for a “full scale” winter hiking festival, not unlike the one held in February 2020 shortly before the Covid crisis forced the closure of such events.
This winter’s festival is set to return Feb. 5 and 6. Council voted unanimously to support the return of the festival after chief administrative officer Mike Rutter presented a report saying that the festival could still be held while being mindful of Covid protocols.
He also said that when the event was held in 2020, 83 per cent of participants were seasonal or permanent residents of the county. Therefore, the festival is a nice event to get local people out and spending money at local businesses, but not an event that leads to a lot of travel and the increased covid risk that tourists bring.
“It’s time to get people out and about,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt, at the Wednesday, Oct. 13 virtual meeting.
Minden Hills Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell added that the event’s $3,000 cost to Haliburton County taxpayers is “a small price to pay to bring some normalcy back to the community.”
The Feb. 2020 event featured 20 guided snowshoe hikes spread out across the county, with each municipality represented. There were about 300 participants, for an average of about 15 participants per hike. Twenty-two volunteer “hike leaders” guided the hikes, which ranged from 1.5 to 10 kilometres.
County staff feel the event has a good return, as a survey showed that 58 per cent of participants in 2020 spent money at local restaurants on the weekend.
Councillors had the option of supporting a scaled down version of the event, or deciding to not hold the event at all, but council unanimously agreed to hold a full-scale event.
Last year’s winter edition of the festival was planned, but ultimately scrapped when the province entered a strict shutdown.