For many communities in Ontario, including South Dundas, tourism has filled a void left as manufacturing plants closed or relocated out of the province. International trade agreements along with technological advances fundamentally changed jobs in small-town Ontario. Even now, as countries look more inward for self-sufficiency during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, should manufacturing return and grow in Ontario it will not bring back jobs in the numbers there were before.
Tourism is an important part of the South Dundas economy. Overall, tourism accounts for 22 per cent of employment in the municipality. That’s more than one in every five jobs in South Dundas. Main attractions like Upper Canada Village and the Upper Canada Playhouse are only part of that picture. Campgrounds, restaurants, and our waterfront parks all together form what makes South Dundas a great place to visit.
Our community cannot have tourism without people coming here to visit our attractions, eat in our restaurants, and stay in our accommodations. In other words, you can’t make money from tourists if tourists don’t come here.We should be prepared to accommodate their needs by having things like washrooms open and available to allow them the opportunities to use our parks/beaches respectfully. Visitors shouldn’t be greeted by an “us versus them” attitude now that people know about South Dundas.
It is no secret that our waterfront parks are popular with residents and tourists alike. Yet there is discussion now of charging people to use the parks. The argument is a fair one, citizens of South Dundas pay property taxes which pay for the parks. We argue that tourists are paying their fair share towards the tax base too. Tourists spend money at South Dundas’ tourist attractions, stores, and accommodations. Except for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, all of these businesses pay their fair share of taxes at three times the residential tax rate.
Councillor Lloyd Wells offered two ideas at the last council meeting. The first was for visitors to pay $50 to visit South Dundas parks, and South Dundas citizens would get a free pass. The other was our North Dundas and South Stormont neighbours would also receive a free pass. Both ideas are outrageous. Charging the same amount for our waterfront parks as attractions in big cities would kill off tourism in South Dundas. Free passes for neighbours while forcing tourists to pay more gives the message that locals are welcome, but no outsiders please.
The activity at our waterfront shows that South Dundas’ investment in tourism is starting to pay off. To throw that away now, would only hurt the community further. Keep the parks free, improve access where need be, and enjoy the successes that tourism is bringing.