(with a file from Jeff Green)
MPP Randy Hillier met with North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins on Sunday morning in Cloyne to discuss future economic development possibilities for North Frontenac and Addington-Highlands townships. They were joined by a small group of local entrepreneurs and business owners to start sketching out ideas on how both municipalities could benefit from, and grow, with some new investments in the area. The group had a two-hour discussion regarding options for stimulating the local economy and these ideas included an 80-room wilderness lodge and conference centre, a wood-pellet manufacturing facility, and a craft brewery.
Ashby Lake cottage-neighbours and Ottawa entrepreneurs Scott Annan and Dan Carruthers were two of those in attendance at Sunday's meeting. They're hopeful that they can capitalize on the recent community engagement they've seen since Nextera, an American-owned company, made a proposal to build over 100 turbines in North Frontenac and Addington-Highlands.
“One of the positives to come from this crisis is that it has people really talking with each other; engaging in real issues and taking a genuine interest in their community,” Carruthers said. “Let's turn this crucible moment into a catalyst for real, long-term development for the region by engaging connected representatives from the provincial, municipal, entrepreneurial and investment communities.”
Part of the goal last Sunday was to present an alternative option to the Addington-Highlands council to “replace the allure of wind turbines.”
“Your decision on this topic will be your legacy and residents of Addington-Highlands will bear the consequences of your decision for the next 20 years...and likely for many generations beyond,” Annan said in a note to the Council.
“It is time for you to make the right, albeit difficult, decision,” Annan said. “It is time for you to stand up and oppose clandestine partnerships. It is time for you to stop the division of residents, and instead to unite them through a common goal.”
Annan wrote to Council and local MPs hoping they could “work together to create a plan that will include a new lakefront resort and conference centre to generate dozens of long-term permanent jobs.”
The group feels that Bon Echo being open all year around would be an important ingredient to their success. They picture a four-season environment with a trail network that could be used for cross-country skiing and hiking. They envision huts built along the trails for snowmobilers, hikers, and skiers to use, like the popular ones that exist in Gatineau Park. They also suggested BBQ competitions, small concerts, wine and food events, and mountain bike races as possible events to attract people to the lodge and area.
“We could be the next Kawarthas,” Carruthers said. “There's an alignment happening right now.”
He imagines local organic gardening and livestock incorporated into cooking workshops with guest chefs, local craft beers, and outdoor activities in both summer and winter.
Carruthers is in the process of procuring investors for the project and currently had around $5-million committed to the project when this paper went to press.
“Let us define our own 'vibrancy fund'...one that is inclusive and homemade,” Annan suggested.
The Group suggested that green energy could be incorporated into their approach to the lodge but are against the use of wind turbines there as they are detrimental to their idea of promoting the area as being naturally beautiful.
Addington Highlands Reeve Henry Hogg and the rest of Addington Council were invited to the information session on Sunday but only Tony Fritsch replied, but wasn't able to attend.
When contacted, Reeve Hogg said that he did not know about the meeting until he checked his email on Monday morning. He thinks the email must have come in late on Friday afternoon.
“I'm not sure I would have attended if I had known, because I would need to canvass council if I was attending as a representative of Council. I don't know what was discussed at the meeting,” he said, “but I do feel whoever did attend would be well served by bringing their proposals to a meeting of AHEAD, our economic development committee. They have been meeting on a monthly basis for many years and are always looking for new proposals, and new members.”