Explore South River

Nearly three full years after the Umbrella Project faded away, we have taken our lessons and applied them to a new pilot project based on the same mission and theme with the overarching message – Together, we’re better.

Explore South River is a collaborative project inspired by 30 participating businesses, artists, crafters, retail, restaurant, accommodation and experience providers in South River, Ontario – centrally located within Almaguin Highlands.  We hope to report on the progress of this project as it brings to life the stories, history and culture of our home region highlighting local events with arts, recreation, culture and learning focus.

Learn more at ExploreSouthRiver.ca or Facebook.com/ExploreSouthRiver

Umbrella Project Update

It’s been 14 months since I first extended an invitation to community groups, municipalities and economic development organizations throughout the Almaguin Highlands to invest in the idea of community collaboration in a Community Umbrella Project. I am grateful to the hundreds of people who attended Umbrella events, the dozens who participated in project planning meetings, the organizations and individuals who committed time, resources and funds to the project and the three regional economic development committees who publicly expressed support for the project.

The project ~ a community Web project to create a singular destination for visitors and residents of Almaguin Highlands to access information about events, businesses, destinations, experiences in our region was widely celebrated as a missing link in achieving our greatest potential.

Provincialism kills great ideas. The idea that a project of this sort should be owned one organization or another stands in stark contrast to fulfilling the promise inherent in the vision, “Together, We’re Better”. That is why the Umbrella Project committee was established with an invitation for any organization that wanted to invest in the project to sit at the planning table and share responsibility for different project elements.

The Hidden Agenda. It’s true, as some have suspected. I had a hidden agenda in kickstarting this project. As I have seen in my work in other provinces and in other collaborative projects, I knew that once we experienced the success of working beyond the walls of our organizations we would be so thrilled with the results that we would find new ways to help one another achieve many more successes by pooling our resources.

Unfortunately, sometimes investment is confused with ownership. The community not-for-profit organization PARC supported me in directing efforts to bring people and organizations together under one umbrella with a memorandum of understanding, collaborative project management structure and clear project goals. Unfortunately, well-respected community organizations stepped away from the Umbrella Project and withheld their investment in the project.

For me, the Umbrella Project is on hold indefinitely.

An idea whose time will come? I hope so. We need it.

What will be required in order for Almaguin Highlands to achieve it’s greatest potential?

  • Trust.
  • Desire to work with others and appreciation for the value of true collaboration.
  • Willingness to do what it takes to achieve something special.

Someday. Maybe. Hopefully we won’t have to pay a high profile consultant to come tell us what we already know, “Together, We’re Better”.

I wish you all much success in your endeavours.

All the best,


Todd Lucier
888.535.7510 (direct line)

April Showers bring out Umbrellas!

As the snow recedes and bulbs sprout their heads it’s time to come together and reacquaint ourselves with the inspiring four stage Umbrella Project.

Over the past month I’ve encountered more than a few folks who have passionately expressed the need to work collaboratively with all community stakeholders to promote a shared vision for Almaguin Highlands and they have reminded me of the incredible community support for this initiative.
So let’s get back to work shall we?
The agenda for the meeting includes:
James Murphy will be in attendance to help us understand the partnership process and how to work with Explorers’ Edge.  James will also provide insight into the valuable role this committee can play as a variety of projects promoting the region move forward.
Also, announced at our recent meeting, PARC has received funding of up to $5000 from NECO for stage one of the Umbrella Project. A proposal from PARC on how to begin working on the four stage project will also be discussed.
It’s sure to be an interesting meeting.  Your ideas and insights are important.  If you’d like to join us, drop Todd.Lucier@gmail.com a note and tell him you’ll be there.

Almaguin Umbrella Project Committee Meeting

6 – 8pm, Thursday, April 30, 2015 (consider arriving a little earlier to have a bite to eat)
Ha’s Restaurant,
Sundridge, Ontario

2015 – Year of the Umbrella

The New Year has brought together over a dozen inspired community members, representing a variety of Almaguin community groups who meet each month to advance the four agreed-upon project elements.  What’s New?

  • Four Economic Development Committees in the Almaguin Highlands region (Municipalties of Powassan Economic Development, South Almaguin Economic Development, Central Almaguin Economic Development Association, Almaguin Highlands Economic Development Committee), approved the project (in principle) after presentations in fall of 2014.
  • The Umbrella Project Committee (UP) meets the third Thursday of the month at 6 pm at locations throughout the Almaguin Highlands.
  • PARC was approved for a grant of up to $5000 by NECO to begin Stage 1 of the project - community collaboration and survey (Feb 2015).
  • Umbrella Project Committee members will be collaborating to make a shared presentation at AHED’s annual Showcase Almaguin event scheduled for March, 2015 in Trout Creek.

Wrapping up 2014

We had a busy, successful year in 2014.

On Nov 29th we wrapped up the first year of promotion and raising community awareness of the Almaguin Umbrella Project with a festive gathering at Highlander Brew Co.

See News highlights of the year for Almaguin Umbrella

Thank you for your support of the Almaguin Umbrella Project.
I am filled with gratitude for support of a number of volunteers and PARC who helped organize and host events, and to the community members who have supported this project by attending and spreading the word – “Together, We’re Better”. I’m especially thankful to the Almaguin News for sharing the story of this project with the community.

Highlights from 2014:

  • We hosted three well-attended community events highlighting local food, entertainment and appreciation for the value of working together.
  • Todd Lucier presented to the AHED spring Showcase Almaguin event in Burks Falls and made two presentations to Central Almaguin Economic Development Association and presentations to South Almaguin Economic Development Committee, Municipalities of Powassan Economic Development Committee, and Almaguin Highlands Economic Development Committee. In short, everyone supports the project!
  • In November, Northern Edge Algonquin hosted a best practice mission from Atlantic Canada involving a number of community partners throughout Almaguin.

What’s next?
In 2015, we move from talking about the needs of our community, and discussing Umbrella Project priorities to making it happen. How exciting is that?

. . . and the best part, we’re going to make it happen together.

The first meeting of the newly-formed Almaguin Umbrella Committee will be:  6 pm – 8 pm on Thursday January 15th
at the South River Municipal Office, 63 Marie St., South River.

At this meeting, we’ll meet one another and take our first steps together.  Would you like to be involved?  Drop us a line and we’ll figure out the best role you can play in helping enhance the vision of a more robust, united and inspired Almaguin Highlands.

Atlantic Canada visits Almaguin Highlands!

Explorer’s Edge Best Practice Mission
Sustainable Tourism: Culinary • Cultural • Experiential • Nature
Nov 16-21, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 4.48.46 PM

Defining Best Practice Mission: Tourism industry professionals travel to locations outside their home region (in this case PEI, NL, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) to gain knowledge and experience with educational and interactive learning experiences that illustrate best practices in tourism. The mission that visited Almaguin Highlands focused on Sustainable Tourism: Culinary • Cultural • Experiential • Nature

This past week Todd Lucier was very pleased to welcome Atlantic Canada tourism professionals to his Algonquin Park home, Northern Edge Algonquin in the Almaguin Highlands.  The mission showcased Almaguin Highlands tourism experiences as Best Practices in Canada in culinary, cultural, experiential, and nature tourism under the umbrella of sustainable tourism.

Over the past decade Todd has worked with tourism industry professionals throughout Canada, in particular at the Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism where he has shared many stories of innovation and transformation from this community over the years.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 4.49.17 PMLucier said, “I was nervous.  It is one thing to offer tourism training to tourism professionals in a classroom or conference centre.  It’s also easy to write reports or make recommendations by writing about tourism.  It’s quite another thing to offer learning experiences for my colleagues right in my own home and in the Almaguin Highlands with our partners and local businesses.  I felt quite proud.”

“On this mission we spent the week with my team, partners and tourism allies from the surrounding community to learn how our remote, rural community in Almaguin has built world class experiential tourism offerings.”

The visitors explored concrete ways to leverage community assets – in people, experiences, and locations to build resilient communities. They also learned about the Almaguin Umbrella project and the importance of engaging the entire community in developing a regional identity.

“Usually Best Practice Missions involve quite a bit of travel between locations demonstrating excellence. I was delighted to be able to put a Best Practice Mission together in a way that brought focus to the Almaguin Highlands.  Every time I thought about places outside Almaguin I could bring our guests, I was able to find a better example to bring the message home, right here in Almaguin.”

We wove together ideas/themes including: collaboration, learning from inspired people, and making the most of under-utilized community assets.

“I am very grateful to the people who lent their expertise to the mission.  Tom Bryson, of Westwind Forestry led a forest walk to explain sustainable forestry, Kara Mitchell taught about sustainable trails and growing Shiitake mushrooms with Myco-op, chefs Justin Myles and Martin Belzile of Iron Skillet in Kearney hosted a meal focusing on local meat and vegetables.  Boards Honey taught about honey production and value-added products,  Sean Cotton of Tree Ring Records presented a private concert for our guests at Highlander Brew Co. highlighting just a small window on our unique cultural assets.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 4.49.37 PMOther contributors included Dan Commanda (Ojibwa artist), Vicki Arsenault (yoga and growing micro greens), Kelly Gibson at Bean There Cafe (coffee and snacks) to name just a few.

Participants came away with a deep appreciation for the value of infusing experiences will local flavours at mealtime and beyond, and inspiration to leverage their own resources to build new and exciting visitor experiences with an appreciation for the importance of community collaboration.  



For further information:

Todd Lucier



Almaguin Umbrella Project – it’s yours

The Umbrella Project is yours.  Share the success by getting involved.
To review how you can help this month and contribute directly to the success of the project:
  • Talk up the message, “Together, We’re Better”.  Say it with me now!
  • Join the fundraising team for Nov 17-21 (a few hours – a few days, whatever time you can contribute).
  • Print and post Wrap Party posters
  • Join the grant proposal team.  Contribute your expertise to help leverage provincial and federal support. Commitment is two meetings during week of Nov 21-28th.
  • Ask your association of community group to join the Almaguin Umbrella Advisory Council Contact info@almaguinumbrella.com or call Todd Lucier at888.535.7510 to express interest or learn more.  Your group will join PARC in providing input, direction and action into the project.  First meeting will be scheduled for the week of Nov 21-28th.

Learn more about the Project with this simple two page Umbrella Project pdf that explains why the project matters, what it is, and how you can get involved.

Umbrella Bashes are so much fun, we have to do it again November 29th!

We’re wrapping up the Almaguin Umbrella fund-raising campaign with a seasonal party at Highlander Brew Co on November 29th!

Everyone is welcome!  Tickets available at the Door ($30) or as a free Investor Reward to folks donating $40 or more to the Umbrella Project.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.22.46 AMLearn more about the Project with this simple two page Umbrella Project pdf that explains why the project matters, what it is, and how you can get involved.




And if you know a great place to put up a poster for the Wrap Party November 29th, grab the Wrap Party Poster here, print it and post around town.

Each time you put up a poster you are entered in a draw for a free ticket to the event.  Text a photo and description of where you put the poster to 888.535.7510 or email to info@almaguinumbrella.com.  Every poster earns you another chance at the free ticket giveaway!


Wasn’t that a Launch Party?

The McLean's Get the Party StartedThanks to Riverbowl for hosting the Almaguin Umbrella Launch Party on October 14th, 2014.

Check out photos from the event.  Thank you to Gwenith Kikkawa for manning the camera most of the night.

Douglas and Arlene McLean got the party started and Tree Ring Records founder Sean Cotton finished off the night with some great local songs.  Sean also explained to attendees how Tree Ring Records is bringing together local musicians under one brand that is gaining nationwide attention while delivering a “100 Mile Diet” of musical tastes to audiences in Almaguin/Muskoka and beyond.

A number of thank you’s are in order, especially to the Launch Party planning team: Gwenith Kikkawa, Tim Lucier, Ingrid O’Gorman, Bob Weaver, Todd Lucier, Romano Marchi, Michele Bateman.  Have a gander and peak through the window on the evenings festivities.