A $710K project in Leamington, Ontario will receive federal government subsidies through the Canadian Experiences Fund (CEF), an initiative that supports tourism development across the country. Leamington’s project will create a trail that connects the town to Point Pelee National Park.
A small, coastal town in Essex County, with a population of under 30,000, Leamington aims to increase tourist traffic to the area. Point Pelee sees almost 350,000 visitors each year, so easing transportation between the park and the town will help draw new tourists to Leamington.
The Canadian Experiences Fund will provide $300K towards the project, with the town providing the remaining $410K from its trail development reserve.
Tourism grants through the Canadian Experiences Fund are managed across Canada by the federal government’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The RDA that is administering funds for Leamington’s tourism initiative is FedDev Ontario, which offers multiple funding programs to both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in Southern Ontario.
FedDev Ontario Funding Will Boost Tourism
The funding will support construction of a 1.4km trail running from Point Pelee National Park to the Town of Leamington.
The total cost for the project is $710K, which includes $100K to buy land along Point Pelee Drive for the trail.
There is currently no designated path from Leamington for pedestrians and cyclists to reach the national park, which lies just southeast of the town. The existing roadway, Point Pelee Drive, is too narrow to add bike paths, and is owned by the county, rather than the town. The new path will connect one of the town’s roads, Bevel Line, directly to the park.
Mayor Hilda MacDonald points to the project as part of the town’s overall tourism strategy.
“We’re trying to develop tourism, increase attractiveness. When you add things like this, it enhances the quality of life.”
Leamington’s tourism campaign includes the hashtag “#onthe42” to stress the town’s location on the 42nd parallel (the same latitude as that of northern California) and its corresponding milder climate, compared to some areas in Canada. The emphasis on warmer temperatures highlights Leamington as a year-round destination for outdoor excursions, of which the new trail will be a key component. The trail will further develop Leamington’s draw for tourists as a top destination for birding and for all-season hiking and camping.
The developments will be in line with the upward trend in tourism in Essex County generally. In 2018, the county saw 10% growth in hotel rates and 5% growth in overnight stays, after several years of essentially zero growth.
Tourism Grants & Other Canadian Government Funding
The Canadian Experiences Fund was created by the federal government to provide grants for tourism projects, with a focus on five key priorities: winter and shoulder-season tourism; Indigenous tourism projects; inclusiveness, especially for the LGBTQ2 communities; tourism in rural and remote communities; and farm-to-table tourism.
CEF is administered by Canada’s six Regional Development Agencies across the country. CEF is now closed, but the federal government’s RDAs offer numerous other funding programs.
For example, FedDev Ontario offers government funding in Southern Ontario for both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. Two of its top programs are the Business Scale-Up & Productivity program and the Regional Innovation Ecosystem program.
Funding is also available across the country through the other RDAs, which include FedNor in Northern Ontario, ACOA in Atlantic Canada, CED in Quebec, CanNor in Northern Canada, and WD in Western Canada).
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