Writer shares support for proposed Hepworth tourism centre

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The unsafe crowding conditions in one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Ontario. This, while barren lands sit further south; waiting to be explored. Photo courtesy of Shaena Mcmakeit

In a snowy and barren Bruce County, the reality of winter does not appropriately reflect that of the busy summer season. In fact, the two realities are polar opposite. If one who is completely new to the Bruce walks along Berford Street in Wiarton on a brisk March afternoon, and returns again on a sweltering July afternoon, the individual would find it rather hard to believe that he or she is standing in the same location. This diversity of season-based traffic is something many rural cottage communities deal with, not only those lining the Bruce, but province-wide as well. What is rather impressive is the fact that this community realises the trouble behind being a seasonal tourism destination in extremely easy reach of 6.4 million people, and is willing to act on it.

When the predominately termed ‘tourist invasion’ first made headlines across the Bruce, the rest of Ontario was listening. Even though GTA tourists say they are— for the most part— not going to let a tourism boom prevent them from making the trek up when they can, some are ready to abandon summertime trips to the area, all for the reason most prevalent—It’s simply not the same anymore. The talk was so successful that the word of the Grey Bruce crisis travelled across the boarder into Michigan. It has now been five months since the biggest collaboration initiative was sought and although the process has been slow, word has finally surfaced that Tobermory would be seeing visitors pay for their parking space— which is in unquestionably high demand. Recently emerging are details about a soon-to-be-ready Visitors Centre in Hepworth.

Located at the very south of the famed peninsula, squashed between the sandy shore of Sauble Beach and the rocky base of Balmy Beach, Hepworth is the first stop for many visitors in the region. Why not use this extremely convenient location to educate people? I, for one, see an overwhelming heap of potential in this new visitor’s centre— in fact, I think that the whole Peninsula could benefit from it. By building a tourist information centre right at the beginning of the Bruce, a way to communicate with potential North Bruce tourists becomes apparent. This means of communication can work on many levels to solve local crowding issues throughout the park.

Perhaps a digital sign highlighting traffic conditions on the rest of highway six; or an electronic display board, with live information streaming in from the park, displaying current parking capacity and time slots sold—taking into consideration the Park’s timeslot parking. The convenience of ‘stopping and checking’ for traffic and crowding updates is twofold. In one sense, people can visually see for themselves the state of North Bruce traffic, and make their own adjustments to their trip before driving all the way up and being disappointed. In another, the local economy of the passer-by town that is Hepworth will see a boom also.

Perhaps here, at the very beginning of the Peninsula, travel experts and tourism operators can begin the process of pushing alternate locations. After all, the towns hugging the south shore of the Bruce— such as Southampton and Point Clark—are not nearly as crowded as any place north of Sauble. Perhaps here, the beginning of something new can emerge for the county. It is now time to act on this. Show the onlookers— the rest of Ontario—that the Bruce can make decisions as a community which strive to resolve worthwhile issues.

Joseph Gentile

J. Gentile is a freelancer who has been documenting tourism trends, and changes in Bruce-Grey, along with campaigning for a greener region.