By Project Team

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 or

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 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



Computer Repairs North Bay – Computer Doctors Malpractice

Malpractice by the Computer Doctors

When  seeking out computer repair services in North Bay or anywhere in the Almaguin Highlands it’s vital to do your research first.  Customer experiences posted online in the form of computer or iphone repair reviews can help you determine where to take your computer or ipad for service if things go wrong.  We certainly wish we had read the reviews prior to taking our iphone to North Bay to repair a cracked screen.
It’s easy to make a website making promises of excellent customer care, another to deliver as Manager Douglas Scott says on the website at North Bay Computer Doctors.

My story of iphone screen repair doesn’t end happily, but perhaps my experience can help others determine where to go when they need to have computer repairs, ipad repairs or cracked screen repairs for their phone or tablet in the North Bay area.

1. On day one, the iPhone 6 was brought in for screen repair.  A nasty drop and shatter at the hands of grandchildren was unfortunate, but what was to come when a repair service was sought out was small potatoes compared to having a spidery web screen on the iphone.   Where to go, but North Bay.  Since the cost of screen repair was less than half what it would have cost to repair the phone, we opted for North Bay Computer Doctors to repair the screen.

2. Screen was repaired and paid for and the phone returned.  Unreported by the technician or sales person who took payment for the repair, it was noticed the finger-print scanning button on phone was not working.  Apparently it was broken by the technician during repair.  The phone was returned to the repair shop in North Bay Computer Doctors to have the damage caused by the technician who repaired the screen fixed. 

3. Although the button was replaced at no additional charge after a few days wait for the parts to arrive, touch ID would not function – an important feature of the phone.  The phone repair technician in North Bay suggested a software update would fix the phone.  However, the phone was bricked on update (became unusable) due to use of counterfeit non-Apple parts by North Bay Computer Doctors.   It’s important to note that almost all screens and phone parts used by third-party phone repair services  like North Bay Computer Doctors use inexpensive parts obtained from non-authorized producers of these parts in China.

4. 30 days after first brought in, manager Douglas Scott promised a solution to the malfunctioning iphone (repair or replacement) by end of day. Yes, Sheldon Forgette, CEO – I was PROMISED a solution by end of day by manager Doug Scott.  Now he probably wouldn’t want to fess up to such a promise in light of what was to follow, but three weeks later – still we were not contacted about the phone repair by this North Bay phone repair business.  Despite the fact that on the website the company pledges - “Fixing your iPhone fast, right and with quality parts guarrantied for 30 days is our motto!” (pardon the poor spelling – it’s from their website at!north–bay–phone–repairs-iphone-screen/c10t1  They also clearly state they are insured!  That’s good, things could go bad and insurance is important if repairs are faulty and not carried out with the greatest of care.

5. 43 Days out I drop in to learn what is going on with the iPhone 6 repair. C.E.O. Sheldon Forgette informs me Apple updates often corrupt phones after repairs like this because in his words, “We use these cheap parts from China that aren’t authorized by Apple and Apple changes their software to make non-Apple hardware fail.”  The techies end up spending over 24 hours trying to repair the phone according to Forgette and Scott.

6. 50 days out, still we have no phone, but I receive this email message in response to a request for fulfillment of promise from manager Douglas Scott made to me in person on November 11, 2015.  His ideas of making things right seem to have soured: ‘In our liability waiver that you signed we are not liable for a device that cannot be successfully repaired for any reason.’

* NOTE to self: Fail to repair is one thing, damaging phone components outside of the repair requested, making that phone unusable is another.   

I’m sympathetic to the problem that unauthorized parts are causing the Computer Doctors, but they are computer repair specialists!  They make things right.  The hypocratic oath compels doctors to uphold specific ethical standards.  Part of that oath states of patient care: “I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.”

6. And so, 50 days after having brought the phone in for service we are left with the following options provided by C.E.O of Computer Doctors in North Bay, Sheldon Forgette Offer of resolution: refund repair fees paid and return irreparable phone they damaged. Ludicrous.   Of course it’s not fair for a phone repair service to repair your phone by making it unusable and offer a refund because they couldn’t repair the cracked screen.  The cracked screen is fine, it’s the phone that’s pooched.  Software issues that arise from technician errors require computer repair organizations to take responsibility for their errors instead of hiding behind some vague disclaimer or waiver of liability.  

Advice: Computer or device need a doctor: Do your research. To find a specialist in customer care who can care for your device properly, read the reviews.  You can learn a lot about a business by seeing what others have experienced.  Despite what computer and phone repair companies say on their website, what they do in practice matters most . . . and learning from other customer experiences like those featured on sites like YELP! and Google Business reviews can help you avoid the pitfalls of poor customer service, whether seeking out a computer repair service, or buying a good meal in a restaurant.

Still not sure how this will turn out, but we hope your computer, phone or tablet repair experience is better than the one we had in North Bay, Ontario.