It started up 74 years ago, during the second world war in 1943, when the idea of forming a marketing organization for a region that was just developing road access was pretty forward thinking.
Over the years the Land O’Lakes Tourist Association (LOLTA) has seen many ups and downs, and this week in Sharbot Lake the current Board of Directors took the difficult decision to disband.
Harvey Webster, the Manager of the Loughborough Inn, was the chair of LOLTA until Monday. He has been an active member and a member of the Board of Directors over the years.
He said that while LOLTA is shutting down, the marketing work that it had been doing will carry on.
“It was a sad situation but its not that the Land o’Lakes are disappearing. The counties and local townships have stepped in over the last few years, and the provincial Regional Tourist Organisations (RTO’s) have come on stream as well. For our members, there are still opportunities for promotion as part of a region even with us closing down,” he said.
“As far as I am concerned LOLTA is not buried yet, it is more like it is more like it is on hold. If the municipalities and RTO’s step back, we will need LOLTA again.”
The storied history of LOLTA was the subject of a video that was made by Ken Hook in 2013. Hook served as LOLTA manager for one year, after the departure of Terry Shea, manager between 2003 and 2008.
The video outlines how the association got its start as a group of fishing lodges from Tweed, the region called “North Addington” at the time, which is now Stone Mills and Addington Highlands townships, and “North Frontenac”, which at the time referred to the region of Frontenac County north of Verona.
The focus of the association was for lodges and other groups to take advantage of the opportunities that were to come as the war ended and US tourists began to look northward for fishing opportunities. Membership dues went up in 1947 to $5 per season.
Over the years the association changed as new leaders came forward, two of whom, Jeanette Whitfield (1963 -1966) and Faye Henry (1979 -1996) were interviewed. They both talked about issues that were specific to their day, but also to issues that remain relevant today. For example, Henry talked about how much effort it took for the region to be noticed by various levels of government, and they both talked about the need for businesses to work together.
LOLTA was able to access grant money for its members through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs between the late 1990’s and 2010, but those programs dried up or were diverted to municipalities.
The LOLTA region, which had expanded over the decades to include all Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Counties and the Municipality of Tweed, was essentially cut in half when the province of Ontario set up the RTO’s a few years ago. The Ontario Highlands Region includes North and Central Frontenac, Addington Highlands and Tweed, but Stone Mills, South Frontenac, Napanee, and Frontenac Islands are all part of the Great Waterway region.
Having members split into two regional organizations did not help LOLTA, which has struggled in recent years as managers have come and gone. A couple of years ago, the LOLTA office in Kaladar was shut down and long serving office administrator Joanne Cuddy was let go.
LOLTA was run out of the home office of its latest manager, Jen Fitzpatrick, until she left.
The board began to consider shutting LOLTA down when they realised that, as volunteers who were all busy working on their own businesses, they did not have the energy, or finances, to carry on.
I guess that the Land O’Lakes Tourist Association basically ran its course,” said Harvey Webster. “With the Internet and these other government options that there are for these businesses to be promoted, and the fact that we are a volunteer board, there was nothing for us to do but shut down.”
So, just months from its 75th anniversary, LOLTA is no more.