Final DestinationBLYTH recommendations presented - Dec. 7, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
The third and final Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4) DestinationBLYTH meeting was the best attended of all the meetings and included the announcement of three different funding streams for projects in Blyth.
The meeting was held at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company last week and welcomed approximately 40 people who discussed plans to continue the growth and development in the village.
Andrea Gardi, senior project manager for RTO4, explained that the two previous sessions, which included identifying the village’s strengths, weaknesses and draws in the first meeting and a vision for the future in the second meeting, led to the purpose of the third meeting: considering collaborative projects that could help create and maintain momentum for the village.
She explained there are three types of projects the gathered stakeholders, which included representatives from the municipality and county, local businesses and local service groups, could consider: “Animation” projects would look to improve or create new physical activities from walkability to new recreation; “Hygiene” activities would focus on presenting a clean front for the community, be that physically or digitally and finally, “Storytelling” projects that will focus on how village residents visitors tell stories about Blyth.
At the end of the meeting, Gardi explained that, after completing the program, other areas have had funding available for animation projects, however Blyth was going to be used as a pilot for a new funding model which would see grants available for all three types of projects.
Up to $10,000 is available in funding for animation projects through animationfund.ca for Blyth, while the amount of funding available for hygiene and storytelling projects would be announced at a later date through the same website.
FINAL PROJECT MEETING
At the beginning of the meeting, Gardi explained that the first two questions that usually accompany the final phase of the project is where to find funding and who will be in charge of it. She explained that funding will come from various sources, including RTO4. For the purposes of the meeting, she asked that attendees consider both projects they could be a part of and projects that might require the input of other stakeholders.
“The village will decide the destination of the project,” she said. “RTO4 has resources and we will be looking to see how those resources will line up with the projects available.”
She said that the important thing to remember is that projects wouldn’t be asking for people to change their beliefs or give more than they can, but ask for everyone to do what they can to lead to the success of the community.
“Self-interest should be present,” she said. “We want to align the interests that come from that.”
The meeting was run by Overlap Associates and looked to capitalize on reports they had prepared from the first two meetings.
Stakeholders were split into groups which, using the research from the previous meetings, were tasked with creating a “DNA statement”, an internal comment to give Blyth’s residents, community groups, businesses and politicians when planning ahead.
Using a ‘dotmocracy’ practice, which saw the stakeholders voting via placing stickers for their favourite statement, the winning statement was “Welcoming people to participate in the theatre of rural life.”
From there, the second exercise was to consider projects the community could participate in to help develop Blyth as a tourism destination.
Each individual was tasked with proposing several projects, which their group would then evaluate and try to choose one to present to the rest of the stakeholders during the meeting.
After choosing a project, groups were asked to identify a final mission statement for it, as well as project needs such as financing and space, stakeholders that would be involved and potential barricades to success.
Groups were asked to look at how to accomplish the events by looking at similar succesful events.
Each of the six groups presented an idea, starting with one group that wanted to make the entire village of Blyth a stage.
The group called for various people, including actors from the Blyth Festival, to become local ambassadors for the village. They also sought to tell the story of Blyth through actors donning guises of historic Blyth characters to tell the village’s stories.
The group also thinks historic plaques and audio/online tours could be used to illustrate the historic timeline of the village.
The second group wanted a joint ambassador team for the village.
Likened to the Blyth Business Improvement Area, the team would focus on going to meetings and visiting organizations to promote the village to tourists.
The group said they didn’t want to rely on word of mouth for the village’s success and thought an active team out promoting the community would do a great job in letting people know what the village has to offer.
The third group wanted to focus on the gateways to Blyth including the intersection at County Roads 24 and 25 as well as the northern entrance to the village.
Aside from wanting to change the existing intersection at County Roads 24 and 25 to a roundabout or traffic circle, the group felt a welcoming object or physical sign would help people know they have arrived in Blyth.
Likening the idea to the Wawa Goose in the Municipality of Wawa near Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ottawa, the group said a similar large tourist attraction could provide added draw for Blyth.
The next group called for the modernization of the Blyth Campground. Modernization included several potential steps as well as some necessary changes.
The group said sites should be rearranged to accommodate longer, wider recreational camping vehicles and water and electricity needed to be upgraded throughout the site.
Other changes included better advertising, a more accessible organization for arranging camping at the site and better signage.
The fifth group called for a “Community Supported Arts and Agriculture” initiative which would place “high-calibre” artists at businesses and agricultural locations.
The artists would ply their trade at their assigned sites as part of a year-round project looking to bring people to the village, as well as to specific businesses and agricultural locations.
An event would be held showing off the culmination of the year’s work.
The art could then be sold, if that was the desire.
The group said the project would happen every other year to prevent burn-out in volunteers and artists.
The final group wanted to create “Blyth Market Day”, or an enhanced farmers’ market in the village.
The market would be held Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and feature a traditional style market and a non-traditional partnership between the local businesses and the vendors.
Stalls would be outside of local businesses during warm weather and inside local businesses during inclement weather, promoting traffic on main street and into the partner businesses.
The group also felt the Blyth Memorial Hall’s lower hall could be used as a food court and cooking demonstration area.
With the projects presented and the presentation concluded, Gardi said the future of the community was in the hands of the people at the meeting. She suggested the group try to work together and implement one of the presented ideas, utilizing the funding announced at the end of the meeting.
The information from the meetings will be summarized and made available through Overlap Associates, which ran the meetings on RTO4’s behalf.
As part of making that information available, a contact list was also created by those interested in pursuing the project leaving their phone numbers and e-mail addresses to set up future meetings.
For more information, contact Gardi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-271-7000 extension 205.