New multi-use visitor centre at Arrowhead is almost complete

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It was almost 20 years in the making and it was well worth the wait.

A new visitor centre at the heart of Arrowhead Provincial Park will provide a more central location for park users to access interpretive programs, rentals, a park store, and a place to warm up in the winter.

The park’s management plan, which was written in 2000, identified a visitor complex as a future need. “It’s been identified as something we wanted to do when funds became available,” said park superintendent Peter Briand, adding that planning and design began in earnest four years ago, followed by the installation of utilities and parking, and finally construction of the building itself over the past year.

“We’re happy with how it’s turned out,” said Briand. “I think it’s going to be a good facility for us.”

The visitor centre’s main floor houses a park store, which opened July 1, washrooms, office space, and a programming room with a stone fireplace and small kitchen that will be used for interpretive programs in the summer months and as a warming area in the winter. The kitchen may provide a concession area in the future. (See photos of the new visitor centre below.)

A deck with picnic tables overlooks an open green space that forms a natural amphitheatre. It may be used for outdoor interpretive programs and could include a fire pit in future years; it will become a ski playground for Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club’s Jackrabbit program in the winter months.

Next to that green space is a winterized picnic building with another stone fireplace, a small food preparation area, and a waxing room that will be used for ski programming in the winter. In the summer and as available in the winter it could be rented by community groups or families for gatherings.

The lower level of the visitor centre is where park users can rent bikes, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. In the winter, the park store on the upper level will be converted to a ski, skate and snowshoe rental shop.

“We’ve been challenged as the visitation has grown here quite a bit over the last 10 years, particularly in the winter. We’ve gone from having 5,000-10,000 visitors in the winter to between 50,000 and 60,000, so this facility will give people some indoor space to warm up, have a lunch, and use the public washrooms. I think it will be well used,” said Briand. “It will be more convenient for folks. It’s much more central to have the park store here instead of up near the park office. It’s more central to the day use area, and the East River campground and Roe campground are within walking distance to the rentals and the store.”

The visitor centre complements the winterized comfort station that was installed a few years ago, and the park’s 10 rental cabins that were constructed over the last five years.

“Lots of thought went into (the visitor centre),” said John Leadston, Arrowhead’s assistant park superintendent and the project manager for the build. “It’s the focal point and a starting point for now. It has lots of potential. I can see there being a lot of interest in using this space. I think people will be impressed.”

You can visit any time the park is open, but Friday, July 20 is the ideal time to check it out. That’s Healthy Parks Healthy People Day, when day use is free at all Ontario Parks. You can also participate in these two events that day:

  • Moodwalk, 10 a.m. to noon: Let the power of nature uplift your mind, body and soul on this interactive and experiential hike with facilitator Marghita Austin on the Stubb’s Falls Trail. Meet at the Beach 1 parking area.
  • Paint for the health of it!, 10 a.m. to noon: A watercolour painting experience with a minimalistic approach to instruction and materials, which are provided. Suitable for all ages. Meet at the picnic shelter.

The visitor centre’s official opening ceremony won’t occur until December 2018 as part of Ontario Parks 125 celebrations. Watch for details at ontarioparks.com/op125.

The new Arrowhead Provincial Park visitor centre was almost 20 years in the making.

The new Arrowhead Provincial Park visitor centre has become a reality after it was identified as a future need almost 20 years ago.

An adjacent deck provides a comfortable place for a snack

An adjacent deck provides a comfortable place for a snack

The park store in the new visitor centre opened July 1

The park store in the new visitor centre opened July 1. It will serve as a skate, ski and snowshoe rental shop in the winter.

The warming centre, featuring a stone fireplace, will be a popular spot come winter

The warming centre, featuring a stone fireplace, will be a popular spot come winter

A natural amphitheatre outside the visitor centre may be used for future interpretive programming in the summer. The new picnic building is in the background.

A natural amphitheatre outside the visitor centre may be used for future interpretive programming in the summer. The new picnic building is in the background.

A new picnic building with fireplace, kitchen and waxing room will be used for Jackrabbit cross-country ski programming on winter weekends. It will be available for rent at other times throughout the year.

A new picnic building with fireplace, kitchen and waxing room will be used for Jackrabbit cross-country ski programming on winter weekends. It will be available for rent at other times throughout the year.

Both summer and winter rentals are housed in the lower level of the new visitor centre at Arrowhead Provincial Park

Both summer and winter rentals are housed in the lower level of the new visitor centre at Arrowhead Provincial Park

SUPs await renters at Beach 2 on Arrowhead Lake

SUPs await renters at Beach 2 on Arrowhead Lake

Canoes and kayaks are available for rent for launch at Beach 2 on Arrowhead Lake

Canoes and kayaks are available for rent for launch at Beach 2 on Arrowhead Lake

The old portable housing the park's Nordic Centre has served it well

The old portable housing the park’s Nordic Centre has served it well

The Visitor Centre (VC) is near Beach 2 on Arrowhead Lake (Image: Arrowhead 2018 Information Guide)

The Visitor Centre (VC) is near Beach 2 on Arrowhead Lake (Image: Arrowhead 2018 Information Guide)

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3 Comments

  1. This multi use visitor centre is a wonderful addition to Arrowhead Park. We are so lucky to have the park on our doorstep. The year round facility will encourage local people as well as tourists to visit Arrowhead all year. The Jackrabbits will appreciate the warm up facilities for sure! Congratulations Arrowhead!

    • Emmersun Austin on

      An excellent upgrade to arrowhead. Hopefully all assets will be open for use all year round…amazing opportunities.

  2. I’m so pleased to see the no-step entrances to the new buildings. I hope that the doors are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and are equipped with door-assists.

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