“Exponential tourism boom” will impact quality of life and future generations: a look at tourism on the Bruce Peninsula

Community, Environment, Local, Sustainability, Tourism


The rugged beauty of this unique part of Ontario … can it remain this way for future generations? Photo property of BruceGreySimcoe.com

An original copy of the following article was published by the Saugeen Times, Paisley Advocate and Grey Bruce Today.

A woman in Paisley, Ontario is voicing concern over Parks Canada’s decision to allow all admissions in 2017 free to the public.

Amanda Dieringer from the Village of Paisley has made it clear that she doesn’t agree with the announcement to make admissions free in commemoration of Canada’s 150th.

“Parks Canada absolutely should not have a ‘free parks’ year. I firmly believe that our situation in the Bruce will worsen due to Parks Canada’s decision. The more advertising, the worse it gets and throw ‘free’ on top of that and you’re asking for a disaster.” she said. “How is bringing in more tourists that have absolutely no repercussions on the damage they [tourists] cause considered sustainable?”

During a phone interview with a park booking director (who wishes to remain anonymous), it is learned that only the ‘entrance’ fee has been waved for this summer season. When asked about the entrance fee to the Bruce Peninsula National Park, her response was that the BPNP never had an entrance fee and that people get mistaken between a parking fee and an entrance fee. “The park on the Bruce [BPNP] has never had an actual entrance fee. In essence, the Park in Tobermory will be charging people the same rate as previous years with no entrance fee. Parking is 100% separate and is not to be confused with an utterance charge. ”

She noted that parks such as Banff charge an additional fee on top of parking which the Bruce has never done. “People don’t realize that the Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the few parks we have in Canada that don’t charge people to enter.”

Perhaps it’s time to change that and set up a park entrance fee for the summer of 2018. In this case, an entrance fee would help. Parks Canada itself has no jurisdiction over all parks. Most often, entrance fees are set up by the stationed park board.

Dieringer says that she believes that our tourism crisis is quite under looked by many including our local RTO, the RTO 7.

However, the Bruce Peninsula National Park cannot simply build a ‘visitation wall’ around the entire Bruce Peninsula. Parks Canada has certain mandates they must follow; one of them being to connect Canadians to the landscapes they protect. Moving forward it is evident that change within municipal communities is needed — it is a change that is coming.

Many other Ontario communities who also heavily rely on tourism have faced the same challenges.

Keith Oliver, a retired urban planner from Cobourg, Ontario, says that Cobourg was once prone to the mass influx of tourists the Peninsula is now facing. “People were using barbeques regularly. Coals were dumped in receptacle bins and grills were scraped clean in the lake. A sand pit filled with hot charcoal was not an uncommon sight. It became so that barbeques were no longer allowed. Big tents were simply too big to allow dominance in our waterfront. Large tents are encouraged to stay away from the water’s edge. It makes our waterfront more people friendly, one where you are comfortable letting your children play freely.”

One can question why, in a place as popular as the Indian Head Cove, we allow people to set up these tents in the morning.

Oliver said the only way Cobourg found a “great solution” was by effective communication and a broader thinking pattern when it comes to tourism. “It’s not all about the money even though it is a big factor. The business community prospers when the rest of the community prospers! When sustainability becomes an issue, you are negatively impacting your [towns] social quality of life.”

Oliver is confident that Grey Bruce will resolve its own issue. Indeed we can reach a compromise, but how can we convince politicians to join? Dr. Rachel Dodds from Ryerson University makes it clear that there is another level of communication all together we must add.

In addition to giving worldwide lectures on sustainable tourism, Dodds has guest lectured at conferences worldwide.

According to Dodds, there is a lot of confusion over the term ecotourism. “Ecotourism is defined as tourism to natural areas, for small groups that has an educational and conservation focus to it. Ecotourism is a subset of sustainable tourism. The whole tourism industry can become more sustainable but not all tourism can be ecotourism.”

When asked what advice she has for the region now she said, “Manage and protect the key attribute which is attracting your visitors.”

Dodds also answered a key question on the minds of both business owners and nature enthusiasts. “If one doesn’t protect the very resource that attracts visitors, the entire common good can be lost. A key issue with tourism is that once an attractive area is found, it is often over marketed and only when environmental degradation is realized, planning and management measures are put into practice – at which time it is often too late.”

One cannot say the number of tourists we have let in over the short three month time frame of summer is sustainable. It is agreed that although further implementations on respectable tourism practices may not be welcomed in the business community, it will save us down the line.

Some however, are left speechless by this summer’s crowds.

The Woods Family, for instance, has made Saugeen Shores their seasonal playground for the past three decades. Ken Woods remembers a simpler time in the region. With time, he has seen a decline. “Summer crowds are simply out of control. My daughter recently rented a cottage [Sauble] and upon their arrival they were alarmed to see an enormous motor home parked right across the entry to the beach.” said Woods. “the vehicles parked between her and the lake made it impossible for her young family to safely enjoy the beach.”

Dieringer acknowledges that Bruce Grey needs tourists, but in moderation. She leaves this message behind: “We are paying for tourists to come and destroy land — derail our ecological sustainability. It takes two seconds to destroy a natural feature and years to replenish, if it even does. Voices in numbers matter… business owners, retirees, locals – we need to work together at the end of the day while saving our ecosystems. We can use native teachings to improve our sustainability status. We can take native lessons and apply them in advertising,” she says.

Why yes, Native teachings can be used throughout our region and, perhaps, it’s time to create better relations with our spiritual neighbors. Perhaps the petition created in July by Mr. Gentile can come to use where we stand now. The Bruce is in for the next big change.

Joseph Gentile – Editor and freelancer of environmental affairs, TheLumberjack.ca.