Frequently Asked Questions

What is Almaguin Umbrella? The Umbrella is a  community project with business development benefits.  Community engaged, municipally supported, the umbrella is a co-operative roundtable of Almaguin community residents.  The Umbrella is a project that was established by PARC Association, a not-for-profit corporation established in 2000.  Municipality representatives, Chambers of Commerce and business associations such as AHED (Almaguin Highlands Economic Development Committee), arts associations, trail organizations, community groups working together to achieve the project objectives.

Learn more with this Umbrella Project – 2 Page PDF that explains the whole project.

A Brief History – 2014

Where we’ve been:

● May 22, 2014 Tested the idea of community engagement at the introductory Almaguin Umbrella Community Event (75 attendees). Slide show presentation and roundtable discussions were held at Highlander Brew Co.

● June, 2014 Survey results identify community needs. Over ten community members from across Almaguin accepted the open invitation to help plan the project objectives as the introductory Project Planning Team: Michelle Bateman, Chris Hundley, Bob Weaver, Gwenith Kikkawa, Haley McDonald, Jon Sheppard, Jackie Leung, Linda K. Smith, Romano Marchi, Suzanne Learn, Ingrid O’Gorman, Kara Mitchell.

● July, 2014 set up to describe the project and provide ongoing information about the project. PARC, the community not-for-profit for the “Promotion of Arts, Recreation and Culture” steps forward to provide organizational support for the project.

● October, 2014 Project Planning Team plans and hosts the Almaguin Umbrella Launch Party at Riverbowl in Burks Falls on October 14, 2014 (over 60 attendees).

● October 2014 CAEDA (Central Almaguin Economic Development Association) passes a motion supporting PARC and the objectives of the Umbrella Project. Conversations with interested project partners are underway. South and North Almaguin Economic Development groups have also passed resolutions in support of the project.

● October 2014 Todd Lucier attends Explorer’s Edge Traveler Segmentation workshop to learn about the types of travelers visiting Almaguin. Reports on traveler motivations and expectations will inform the Umbrella Project to better meet the needs of current and future guests to our region.

● October / November 2014 The establishment of a plan for project fundraising features financial donations and inkind investor rewards to help fund the community engagement phase of the project. Over $1000 in financial contributions and over $1000 in-kind donations have been pledged to the project by community members.

● Wrap Party: November 29th at Highlander Brew Co. featured local music, food and drink to celebrate the conclusion of community outreach / awareness-raising initiatives, publicizing the Umbrella Project terms of reference and memorandum of understanding with community groups and forming of the Almaguin Umbrella Project Committee – 2015.

What is PARC?   PARC (an association for Promotion of Arts, Recreation and Culture) mandate is to promote and encourage growth and quality of life in our community through arts, recreation and culture.  PARC mission: “To foster vitality by contributing to the social, economic and environmental success of the region, showcasing regional events, attractions and experiences.”

Corporate articles also state the organization purposes: “Working with the community to promote the region by: 1) hosting or participating in community events in the area of arts, recreation and culture. 2) marketing all assets of the community, whether the environments in which we live or the particular talents of individual residents or groups of residents in a variety of disciplines.”

Clearly, PARC is a perfect project partner for sharing an inclusive region-wide vision of the benefits of visiting and living in the Almaguin Highlands.

The Almaguin Umbrella Project Committee was formed in November 2014: Chamber of Commerce/business members, municipality/economic development members, arts, recreation and culture organization representatives.

Who is  the Umbrella for? There are benefits for all Almaguin Highlands community members, youth, businesses, municipal councillors, economic development officers, community organizations, associations, artists and artisans, regional experience providers and event planners.  Want to be better informed about what’s going on throughout Almaguin Highlands?  This project is for you.

What is the project?  There are four project elements the committee has agreed to focus on.

  1. Community survey and inventory of community assets across the entire region (people, places, events, businesses, organizations, recreational opportunities, trails, accommodations, restaurants, scenic drives and day trips).
  2. Creation of a Community Resource Network.  Put the community resources online on one domain so we can access information about our entire community on handheld devices like tablets and smart-phones and internet-connected computers. More than just businesses and locations, a Discover Almaguin (app/website) tool will help keep the community informed and also help front-line employees to better service the needs of guests to our region.
  3. Establish an Almaguin Highlands Brand that connects us all and celebrates what makes us special.
  4. Create an event planning resource to make it easier for event planners to plan successful events in Almaguin.  This resource will include a Talent Database offering all sorts of art and culture professionals — including visual and musical artists, caterers, crafters, photographers, film producers, actors, designers, event planners — a place to showcase their skills and talents.  A press release tool will ensure local media know about your event.

The Almaguin Highlands Chamber of Commerce is doing exactly the same thing doesn’t it? The new Almaguin Chamber of Commerce is a vital community partner in the Umbrella Project directly linking the project to the business community, and enhancing community relations with municipalities and community members by collaborating on this project.

The Chamber is a voice for prosperous business community that fosters pride in our area and help s develop economic growth on behalf of its members: businesses, associations, and/or any individual who wishes to become a member. The chamber acts on behalf of its members to develop business contacts, promote economic development and the community it represents.   The business community represents only a subsection of Almaguin Highlands residents – albeit an important one.

The mission of the Umbrella Project is to foster vitality by showcasing regional events, attractions and experiences; sharing an inclusive, region-wide vision of the benefits of visiting and living in the Almaguin Highlands.  The project brings the value of arts, recreation, and culture into sharp focus.

Umbrella Project widens the scope of value for chamber of commerce and business associations to include the entire community; a collaborative effort that brings together ALL: arts organizations, community event planners, municipalities, economic development officers, businesses, associations, retirees, youth and families, volunteers, artists and artisans, performers, event planners, tourism resources, recreation and cultural assets, trails, parks and more.  The project also aims to put information about what is going on in our entire community into the hands of every resident.

Far more than a directory of services, a Discover Almaguin web presence under the Umbrella will create a blueprint upon which to grow new businesses, new events and build new community assets, promote increased tourism visitation and grow new investment – all of which have economic benefits that Chamber of Commerce members will appreciate.  The Umbrella is driven by all the things that make our community special.  A survey respondent might have said it best, “One of the problems is the fragmentation of the Almaguin Highlands.  So many groups striving for the same goals on their own . . . including all the municipalities and business and art groups.  My thought is strength in numbers.  One solid group for the whole Highlands is better that a whole bunch of little ones.”

Almaguin Umbrella is a response to the community needs survey from May 2014, as well as numerous strategic planning documents that have been produced in the region, including the latest for Central Almaguin Economic Development Association (CAEDA) in 2013.

Why this project?  

This project responds to the needs identified in numerous regional economic development studies over the last decade, the most recent being the Almaguin Umbrella Survey from June 2014 which clearly indicated we need to do something new to accomplish four things:

  1. Bring our marketing resources (events, maps, trails, parks, etc.) together across the entire Almaguin region.
  2. Community members need to be better informed about the resources and events in our community.
  3. Help people plan successful events.
  4. Establish a region-wide brand.

What benefits can we achieve by working together?

Community Benefits:

  • Increase success of events across Almaguin Highlands with greater attendance to events from both inside and outside the region.
  • Increase visitor economy by making known the reasons to stay in the community longer and connect with the known and yet-to-be-discovered treasures in our region.
  • Growth in the visitor economy will contribute to the creation/sustainment of jobs in the hospitality, service and retail industry.
  • Industrial sector economy will grow throughout Almaguin from the benefits of locating in a community recognized for vitality with thriving, arts, recreation and culture opportunities driving sustainable long-term employment.
  • A renewed vision for the entire region will make the region more attractive for business investment.
  • Project responds to core needs identified in numerous economic development plans throughout Almaguin Highlands over the years.  Community responses to the May survey following the initial Umbrella Community event May 22, 2014 identified four needs:
    • Bring our marketing resources (events, maps, trails, parks, etc.) together across the entire region.
    • Make it easy for the community to be aware of community resources and events happening across Almaguin Highlands.
    • Provide resources to help people plan successful events.
    • Define and celebrate a region-wide brand.

Partner Organization Benefits:

  • Enhance relationships with members and strengthen networks as a bridge to Umbrella Project engagement.
  • Achieve organizational objectives in a shared, supportive community of like-minded organizations, businesses and citizens.
  • Enhance community relations between organizations by collaborating as a project partners with other community groups.
  • Learn about Almaguin Highland region visitors and establish new ways to connect with them.
  • Provide members with a customer-focused representation of their enterprise, beyond current traditional ‘listings’ layouts.
  • Provide members with expanded opportunities to promote their events and market their services.
  • Give front-line retail and service workers community information at hand to to improve service levels and promote repeat sales.
  • Increase sales with day trip suggestions and artisan tour routes.
  • Be active and recognized as a community leader, as a full partner in the project.

Almaguin Highlands Resident Benefits:

  • Invitation to contribute ideas to identify community strengths, assets, and opportunities to help renew the Almaguin Highlands brand and paint a picture of our entire region.
  • Easy handheld access to inform residents of current and annual events throughout Almaguin.
  • A complete inventory of businesses and services operating in the entire region.
  • New business leads for small businesses offering services in the region because they will be easier to find.
  • Increased hospitality industry revenues with increased visitation, increased length of stay, extended seasons for visitation, and increased spending from visitors.
  • Increases in the visitor economy will result in increased sales for retail sector.
  • Increased employment opportunities to meet the needs of an enhanced visitor economy.

Almaguin Highlands Visitor Benefits:

  • Almaguin Highlands businesses will be better able to meet the needs of visitors to the region with a greater understanding of their motivations and expectations when they visit.
  • Handheld access to things to do, community services, organizations and community events.
  • Learn new ways to explore and discover in Almaguin Highlands.
  • Discover new reasons to visit throughout the entire year.
  • With more to see and do, be inspired to stay longer in the region.
  • Be inspired to visit multiple communities throughout Almaguin as part of their stay.
  • Improved knowledge of farmers markets, festivals and community events will connect visitors to residents enriching the visitor experience.
  • Inspiring images and stories about Almaguin will be available to visitors on their handheld app after they return home inspiring them to return.

How long will it take?  If we share our resources and the work required we  could have something to look at by June 2015.  It is anticipated the completion of all four project elements may take up to three years.

Hasn’t this been done here before? No.  It’s time. A 1958 Burks Falls Arrow contest earned us the regional name Almaguin Highlands. Jean Sutherland from Forest Hill Ontario – one of 100 entries won $50 in the contest.  56 years later, it’s time for our community to define what makes Almaguin special.  Read more about how Almaguin Highlands moniker originated by Astrid Taim.

Why Now?  

  • A survey respondent might have said it best, “One of the problems is the fragmentation of the Almaguin Highlands.  So many groups striving for the same goals on their own . . . including all the municipalities and business and art groups.  My thought is strength in numbers.  One solid group for the whole HIghlands is better that a whole bunch of little ones.”
  • A number of new community events have been happening across Almaguin over the past six months.  New organizations are being established and new community marketing and promotion initiatives have been undertaken.  This project can build on the momentum to engage the entire region.
  • The highway has moved to by-pass our small communities.
  • Technology today makes it easier to engage the community.
  • This project is inclusive.  Many organizations hold information and resources that once brought together will create a resource that is much more than the sum of its parts.
  • There is a perception that we do not have the infrastructure to host large scale events.  This is not because we don’t have the resources, but because we don’t know what’s in our own backyard.  For example, organizations refrain from hosting hockey tournaments due to a perceived lack of accommodations. Meanwhile there are at least a dozen small inns and resorts in Almaguin that would love to increase shoulder season business by hosting events.
  • Event planning resources do not exist for our region; meanwhile our Near North neighbours, North Bay and Huntsville have dedicated websites for event planners.
  • See the presentation slides from May 20th at Highlander Brew Co.

Who will pay for this project?  The volunteer contributions of planning team and project team members, coupled with support of municipalities and organizations that can share their resources will allow the bulk of the work involved in this project to be done at little cost.  The cost of specialized technology to conduct in depth surveys, provide mapping intelligence and develop marketing resources for phases 1 and 2 will require contracting services of one or more web/technology/marketing organizations.  The total investment required may be more than $100 000 with the partnership of various levels of government.  The economic benefits of the project will be region-wide and have a positive impact on all residents of the Almaguin Highlands. As such, it is hoped that municipal, provincial and federal support will be able to provide some of the financial and human resources necessary.  Keeping information current will require a small amount of time on an ongoing basis.

How much money do we need to kickstart this project? The community fundraising target for this project is $5000 from individuals, community groups and businesses.  $2500 from municipalities. Every community dollar invested in the project will leverage up to $10 in partnership funding from various sources.  In-kind (non-monetary) contributions from municipalities, businesses and community groups can help PARC raise additional project funding from outside sources.  Once underway, it is hoped municipalities across Almaguin can contribute economic development staff time to keep online information up-to-date and accurate.

Who is supporting this project?  Explorer’s Edge (our regional destination marketing organization) has agreed to provide project support, including financial backing and project design, management support. Explorer’s Edge will help apply for funding with FedNOR and/or MNDM to bring together the necessary funds to complete all four stages of the project.

How did Almaguin Umbrella get started?  Todd Lucier, co-founder of Northern Edge Algonquin nature retreat (South River, Ontario) planted the seed for Almaguin Umbrella in May 2014.  Todd currently chairs the Almaguin Umbrella Project Committee which meets monthly.

Northern Edge Algonquin hosts retreats and adventures that celebrate a taste of the Almaguin Highlands by featuring a variety of local partners including Stonemote – Greg Waters, yoga instructors, naturalist guides, dog sled operators and Highlander Brew Co.  They use community produced goods in their business too.  Guests sit in Bear Chairs, paddle swift canoes, drink a highlander ale, and dine on locally grown produce and meat including: pork, beef and chicken raised locally.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 4.38.49 PMTodd finds great joy in community-based experiential tourism and he has inspired folks in small communities across Canada to see the benefits of collaborating to create unique experiences and tell their own story.  From Dawson City, Yukon and Victoria BC,  throughout Ontario and in every province in Atlantic Canada including Newfoundland and Labrador he has helped small communities collaborate to compete. He even wrote a report for the United Nations Tourism Panel on the importance of public/private partnerships in Eco-tourism and gave a keynote presentation on the topic in Cuiaba, Brazil in 2004.

In addition to helping folks find ways to collaborate Todd has led a number of community based internet projects and given presentations / workshops to almost 5000 businesses and community organizations across Canada.

Todd is volunteering his time and expertise to inspire Almaguin communities to undertake community projects to enhance the way we share our resources and tell our stories to inspire growth in community events where it matters most to him, right here at home.

How can you get involved?  This is your invitation to offer your skills, talents and abilities to help move Almaguin a step forward.  Offer your skills, connections, experience, time.  Click the Join Us link and learn how to participate in the Almaguin Umbrella.

Together, we’re better.

Got a Question we didn’t answer?  Send us a message.