What have we been up to?
Through our industry survey, personal communications, and cascading referrals, the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is continuing to explore our community to find out what Recreational Geology in Ontario’s Highlands means to you. This has lead to the “discovery” of many unexpected attractions, highlighted local development priorities, and helped to define regional next-steps. Although resource-based opportunities have proven to be very similar throughout Ontario’s Highlands, levels of awareness and readiness to take advantage of certain activities differ significantly across the region.
We have all found our own way to explore a shared geological heritage that truly sets us apart as an outdoor recreational destination, and while these local flavours add significantly to the appeal of our regional offering, they overlook some of the common opportunities that exist throughout. In short, these localized pockets of expertise are, at once, our greatest strength, and our greatest weakness.
Bancroft is known as Canada’s Mineral Capital; Eganville is the Ordovician Fossil Capital of Canada; Geoheritage is a familiar term in Lanark County; the Ottawa Valley is known for a rich Aboriginal and archaeological tradition…
The list goes on, but in truth, we in the Ontario’s Highlands all have a claim to each of these unique aspects of Recreational Geology and the available resources to successfully take a page from our neighbours’ playbooks. In this Phase, our focus has been on identifying the opportunities to expand these local interests into regional offerings, while at the same time, highlighting and enhancing our individual strengths.
Where do we stand?
- 1,710 sites of interest have been identified from the thousands of individual references for the Ontario’s Highlands contained in the Mineral Deposit Index of the Ontario Geological Survey. 672 of these have been earmarked as being high-priority candidates for exploration. Based on previous work, 25 should be examined for immediate development as tourism attractions where possible.
- These include hobby mineral and fossil collecting opportunities, geological points-of-interest, and historic sites. There are local concentrations, and variations in types of occurrence, but they are, for the most part, evenly distributed throughout.
- Over 300 types of minerals have been identified in the Ontario’s Highlands, 12 of which were originally discovered here.
- Many of these are known to occur in such quality and quantity that we have become known as a source of world-class specimens for these minerals. Also contained in this list are several rare species for which we can boast internationally significant locations.
- Significant Points of Interest (POI) that demonstrate many of the geological forces that have shaped our landscape have been located. Some of the geological processes that can be exemplified within our region are: mountain building, uplift, erosion, inundation, sedimentation, glaciation, metamorphism, folding, faulting, volcanic eruptions, intrusion, extrusion, etc.
- Preliminary research has identified over 100 experiences that could immediately be considered Recreational Geology attractions. Public access and available interpretive material varies greatly at the moment, but 39 of these have been identified as being market-ready attractions to be included in a Recreational Geology micro site that is being developed as part of the OHTO consumer website. The rest are being viewed as high-priority development opportunities for the near future.
- The types of experiences indicated include geological POIs, historic and cultural sites, annual events, guided tours, collecting locations, informational products, interpretive programming, and more.
- We’re taking steps to engage the professional and amateur geological community, and tap into their knowledge and passions. Significant inroads have been made with important institutions, such as:
- Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa
- Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto
- Queen’s University in Kingston
- Ontario Geological Survey in Tweed
- Mindat.org (international)
This raises awareness of our efforts amongst the people who will be both our most knowledgeable assets, and our most enthusiastic proponents. It gives us access to invaluable informational resources that bolster our inventory of potential attractions, reveals important statistical points that demonstrate the viability of Recreational Geology as a unique tourism motivator for our region, and helps us reach our core target market.
- We’re working closely with the Provincial agencies that govern our geological resources.
- Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM): We’ve made contact with key staff persons at the MNDM to try to devise a new mechanism to secure important mineral collecting sites in Ontario, and close gaps in the legislation to ensure that publicly accessible locations remain available to visitors; protecting them as recreational destinations, and eliminating the challenges of third-party management of public lands.
- Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR): As the keepers of the Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) database for the Earth Sciences, and managers of our above-ground natural resources, the MNR will be an important part of our efforts to identify significant geological attractions, and facilitate appropriate stewardship.
While inventory and outreach continues, the OHTO has come to a point where we can begin to develop the opportunities we’ve identified so far, and start working more closely with you to build the attractions, and package our resources into rewarding new experiences for our visitors.
- We’re working with local partners to help create and enhance key regional assets such as public mineral collecting sites within the Bancroft area, and interpretive activities and displays in the Ottawa Valley.
- Regional exploration and visitation by our Project Coordinator will begin immediately to assess the on-the-ground possibilities for the priority sites identified in the asset inventory. We’ll be contacting local organizations to help arrange these visits, and to make sure we don’t miss anything while we’re in the neighbourhood.
- Our efforts so far have focused on public lands and currently managed attractions, but with the creation of an “Access Negotiations Toolkit” we hope to be able to expand the number of available destinations to include privately owned properties, and help foster new Recreational Geology business opportunities.
- The Toolkit will include sample documents intended to help organizations and individuals gain access to privately owned sites of interest by mitigating the risks and concerns of liability.
Once we’ve assessed our available resources, we can begin to devise a strategy to engage our visitors in a compelling regional story through a series of related activities. One of the biggest comments we keep hearing is that everybody “knows” that Recreational Geology opportunities abound in the Ontario’s Highlands, but very few people really understand what they mean, or what to do with them. One of the key priorities of our next phase of development will be the production of site-specific interpretive material for important POIs and attractions throughout the region, with particular focus on the facilitation of self-guided experience development.
Results of our first phase inventory will be available shortly to help our partners and members start to expand their offerings, and enhance their marketing efforts, but custom subsets of these results by geographical area, or area of interest can be generated upon request. Once again, we want to hear from you! If you have any questions, comments, or requests, don’t hesitate to contact our Coordinator, Michael Bainbridge, at any point at ac.otho]ta[ygoloeg.
If you haven’t filled out our online survey yet, please take a minute to tell us about some of the Recreational Geology attractions in your area now: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e3fjfvl4gkbbds7h/start