Traffic up at Leeds-Grenville Parks Canada sites

Darlene Upton, executive director of waterways with Parks Canada, speaks to 185 attendees at the Leeds-Grenville Economic Development Summit on Nov. 20, 2015. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

KEMPTVILLE – While boating and moorings are up, the executive director of waterways for Parks Canada says the agency still struggles to promote itself.

Darlene Upton told 185 attendees at the Leeds-Grenville Economic Development Summit Friday there were 58,583 boats and 11,435 moorings in 2015.

That’s up 13 and 12 per cent respectively.

But Upton says the trend is still down steadily since 1998.

Nearly three-quarters of Parks Canada business in Leeds-Grenville happened between July and August, even though the Rideau Canal runs from May through October.

There were 60,000 visitors to the Thousand Islands region and nearly 81 per cent of those are repeat visitors.

But the agency is trying to tap into the 11 million people that live within four hours of Leeds-Grenville.

“We are not well known yet. We have a long way to do on promoting ourselves nationally, internationally,” Upton said.

Upton said there focus is on social media to promote the Parks Canada sites because many decisions on travel are now made online and through social media exposure.

She also told the audience that Parks Canada in the area has a 30 per cent cost recovery for its service.

Still, the federal government is making significant investment in the Rideau Canal and the Thousand Islands.

There is $46 million going into upgrades to sites – many reaching 100 years old – like the Merrickville swing bridge.

Another $8 million is going into the Thousand Islands, such as the Battlefield Windmill National Historic Site.

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