GRAVENHURST, ON – The Muskoka Wharf is set to be reimagined in Gravenhurst.

Yesterday Gravenhurst Council approved a comprehensive economic development plan that will focus its attention on the revitalization.

Mayor Paul Kelly said it is a move that is long overdue.

“The Wharf is a remarkable site with some great things happening, but it hasn’t fulfilled its original vision to become a signature destination for our region,” explained Kelly. “The downtown core has benefited from ongoing revitalization efforts and now it’s time to use a similar approach to look at ways to improve the Wharf.”

Parcels of land remain undeveloped and results from a recent survey suggest people have a sense of disconnection to the area from the central part of town.

In part, the survey noted dissatisfaction with the higher turnover of businesses located at the Wharf, a lower than average (business) satisfaction rate when compared to the rest of the town and province, less business reinvestment, and consistent challenges with seasonality.

One source of potential funding for redevelopment will come from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs through the Rural Economic Development (RED) program.

Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said a case study like the wharf is just what the RED program is for.

“I’m pleased to see the Muskoka Wharf project in Gravenhurst get underway. The Rural Economic Development program is helping communities across Ontario become investment ready and open for business,” said Hardeman.

There are a number of levels of government and administration involved with the proposed project. Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller supports the revitalization from a provincial perspective.

“The Muskoka Wharf is a great tourist attraction and further development here will attract more visitors and create much-needed jobs in Gravenhurst,” said Miller. “Our government’s investment in this development illustrates our commitment to creating jobs across Ontario.”

A wharf revitalization coordinator has been engaged as of July. Leanne Fetterley will attempt to bring a number of local elements together to have a fuller scope to the project.

“The Muskoka Wharf is a key tourism attraction and a tremendous asset to Gravenhurst and to Muskoka,” said Fetterley, wharf revitalization coordinator. “This project represents an opportunity to collaborate with businesses, as well as local organizations and groups to develop an action plan to help the Wharf reach its full potential.”

While a preliminary survey was completed, more feedback is being sought this fall.

Data and feedback will be collected through focus groups, surveys, and phone and/or in-person interviews. The results will be used to develop achievable strategic actions that will form the core of the plan. Several organizations will act as advisory committees in this process including the Muskoka Wharf Association, the Board of the Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre, and Gravenhurst Council.

September 11th will feature a project launch being held at Residence Inn by Marriott Muskoka Wharf starting at 5:00 pm, featuring special guests Leslie Fournier and Gregg McLachlan from Your Town Rising.

To RSVP, please contact the Wharf Revitalization Coordinator; Leanne.Fetterley@gravenhurst.ca.

For more information, please refer to the project page on the Town’s website by clicking here.