New parkway eco adventure park will help regional tourism: Henderson

St. Lawrence Parks Commission CEO Darren Dalgleish speaks to attendees at the commission's Partners Day at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ont. Dalgleish announced two new attractions for this year -- one in Brown's Bay and the other in Kingston. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

MORRISBURG – The St. Lawrence Parks Commission has announced two new attractions this year for the Thousand Islands Parkway and Kingston.

During a so-called Partners Day at Upper Canada Village Wednesday afternoon, CEO Darren Dalgleish announced the Skywood Eco Adventure Park at the old Brown’s Bay campground site on the Thousand Islands Parkway would be opening this summer.

It’s a tree top canopy zipline experience that Dalgleish said will be the first accessible facility of its type in Ontario.

The other attraction is Fort Frost, which will be coming next winter to Kingston. With attractions around Fort Henry called The Sleeping Wood, The Ice Tunnel, and The Frezzinator, Dalgleish described it as “Frozen meets It’s A Wonderful Life.”

The St. Lawrence Parks Commission estimates its attractions already pump $150 million into the regional economy every year.

Brockville Mayor David Henderson told Brockville Newswatch, the Brown’s Bay attraction will definitely help out regional tourism.

“You’re literally five, ten minutes out of town. So, it’s close enough that people are bicycling along the parkway that goes right into the city, which, we are seeing the benefits of that already. The Brown’s Bay site, the waterfront site, we see the spinoff of people who have come down from Ottawa and Kingston for that site and Toronto and Montreal for family picnics that kind of thing,” Henderson said.

The mayor believes the other Brown’s Bay site has been sitting empty for roughly 30 years.

“It’s a beautiful site. To actually put activity on this, when we are just opening the Aquatarium. We’re talking about adding two or three hours for visits for people that are going through the area and from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal and here’s another one on the route that adds another two or three hours,” Henderson explained.

Henderson said the Skywood Eco Adventure Park will only add to the tourist experience. “So the point is to try and get them to stay in the area for one overnight, maybe two overnights (and) work their way along the waterfront…this adds to it,” he said.

Henderson was extremely happy with the timing. The Eco Adventure Park is slated to open in the summer, at the same time the Aquatarium is expected to reach its peak tourist traffic.

“Beautiful! Perfect! And add to that is already the U.S. dollar. The Canadian dollar, you’ve got about a 30 per cent advantage for U.S. customers coming over (to visit) and every time that’s happened in the past we’ve had exceptional increases in U.S. traffic coming through.”

The mayor was pleased with the “entrepreneurial, corporate-type approach” of St. Lawrence Parks Commission CEO Darren Dalgleish, in finding new revenue streams and reinvesting them into new attractions.

Henderson said Brockville had an event, similar to Alight at Night, in the downtown but Upper Canada Village has the ability to charge admission for the attraction.

“It’s hard to find new dollars necessarily, but they’re finding the dollars in their system and reinvesting it and doing products like this that are focused, imaginative.”

Even with the improvements and a 15-20 per cent increase in traffic, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission still struggles financially.

It was still just over $3.2 million in debt in the last fiscal year. Four years ago it was $7.5 million – a 56 per cent improvement. “Every dollar is what creates Fort Frost and Skywood and will create phase two of Skywood,” Dalgleish said.

The CEO said it ultimately means less burden on the taxpayer.

“I’d think you all agree, if we continued showing people how to make rooms in the (Upper Canada) Village, our numbers wouldn’t be going up. We see this as a means to an end. We see this as an opportunity to enable stewardship of the fort and the village,” Dalgleish said.

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