Eat or be Eaten!
It was a sad day in paradise when it was announced last week that Grandview Resort in Huntsville has been closed. Grandview has a rich history spanning many generations, where at its beginning a vacation could be enjoyed for $2.50 per night! Its closing in some ways signals the end of an era.
I have many good memories of Grandview. My wife and I had our wedding reception there and for a month or two, many years ago, we lived there while our home was being renovated. I remember in particular, the Craik family who worked so hard to update Grandview and subsequently Bruce Evans who had a vision for the resort that included the Executive Golf Course and condominiums, some of the first in Muskoka. It was a shining jewel in our community.
One of the current owners of the Grandview property is former Mayor Claude Doughty, a developer who has also left his mark on Huntsville. It fell to him to announce the closing of the resort. He noted that the resort model is no longer viable for Grandview due to a major shift in the tourism business in Muskoka. Sadly, he is right.
Gone are the days when small family resorts were the staple of tourism in Muskoka. There are not many of them left and most of those that are have learned how to change with the times and adapt to new realities.
One example is Clyffe House in Port Sydney, the oldest resort in Muskoka that has been owned by five generations of the same family. David Scott, the current owner, recognized in the mid 1970s that the glory days of traditional lodges were fading and costs were skyrocketing. He convinced his mother and aunt, at that time the owners of Clyffe House, to close the full service dining room and convert the hotel to a cottage and housekeeping resort. This decision, while changing in many ways the nature of Clyffe House, allowed it to survive and it remains today a popular vacation destination for many families. There are of course other family resorts that have survived in Muskoka but many struggle and they are no longer a lynch pin of the Muskoka economy.
I became somewhat nostalgic when I learned of the closing of Grandview as a resort but it also reminded me of the reality of change and the importance of confronting it. As one approaches Huntsville from the north, south or east there is a welcoming sign that says “Touch the Past – Embrace the Future”. To me that says that we must honour our heritage but also be on the cutting edge of change. I wonder if we are doing that.
Whether we like it or not we live in a competitive world. That applies as much to communities as it does to anything else. We cannot stand still and the status quo, while perhaps comfortable, can never sustain us.
Perhaps it is the time of year, but as I travel the main street of Huntsville it seems to me to be getting tired again. There are empty stores and the entire block from the Empire Hotel lot to the old Dominion Store is not only vacant but becoming derelict. Some of these properties have been vacant for years. It is hard to see a sense of pride in this important part of our community life and the first place that many people see when they visit Huntsville. I also continue to worry about the effect changes in the delivery of health care and especially changes to our hospital may have on our community. If we end up with hospital services subordinate to those in adjacent communities, we will be less competitive when it comes to our economic well being.
Recently the Town of Huntsville approved a Strategic Plan. I would be surprised if many of our readers have seen it as it has not been well publicized. I had a hard time finding it online, but that may be because I am technologically challenged! The vision for Huntsville contained in the Strategic Plan is:
A vibrant, inclusive healthy community which inspires innovation and growth, celebrates the arts, culture and heritage, promotes recreation while developing a resilient economy founded on social caring and environmental stewardship.
The Vision for Huntsville as contained in the Strategic Plan
The vision is excellent. The plan that follows it is okay. Much of it is motherhood, but it is okay. In my view however, it does not fully live up to its vision and it is not bold.
What we need in Huntsville is a BOLD plan; one that is ambitious, one that creates excitement, one that takes risks and one that anticipates the future. We need a plan that ensures a vibrant and healthy community and sets us apart from our neighbours in what we have to offer. We must protect our heritage but we must also think outside the box. We need specifics. We need to identify resources and we need timelines. We need a plan that ensures that our glory days are ahead and not behind us. We have a Council that is perfectly capable of doing this. It just takes a deep breath and raw courage.
We live in a changing and competitive world that does not exclude Muskoka and the communities in it. In Huntsville, our economy, our lifestyle and our future depends on our ability to deal with that. It’s eat or be eaten and I say, let’s eat!
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