Dysart ‘well-manicured’ but lacks identity: FICE
Reeve says some criticism around branding confusion expected
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | August 24, 2017|
Haliburton got top marks for its presentation, but lost some for its confusing branding and lack of night life, according to the results of a recent community exchange program with the Township of Georgian Bay.
Ten volunteers from the Township of Georgian Bay, ranging from students to business owners, visited Haliburton July 27 as part of the First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) program.
Lynn Racicot, the township’s communications and economic development officer, said volunteers quickly described Haliburton as a “well-manicured” community with a unique mix of retail and public spaces.
But they also had trouble getting here due to a lack of signage and confusing branding that overlapped with Haliburton County’s.
“Participants found it hard to distinguish the difference between the county and the Municipality of Dysart,” Racicot told councillors Aug. 21.
Dysart’s website was informative, Racicot added, but most participants found it aesthetically outdated and unappealing, including its social media pages.
A lack of reliable Internet connectivity and cell service, in addition to challenges with youth retention – volunteers spoke to various young families and business owners during their visit – were also noted in the final report.
But community pride in Haliburton was palpable, said Racicot, with its emphasis on history, culture and outdoor activities.
The Sculpture Forest, Head Lake Park and the lookout point were labelled as the township’s top recreational venues.
Reeve Murray Fearrey said a lot of the feedback was predictable, specifically when it came to branding.
“I do get that it’s not as good as it could be. Perhaps we need to do some type of study … try to separate ourselves from the county and its branding and focus more on ourselves,” he said after the presentation.
Fearrey said he wasn’t sure if there was a business case for bars to be open late, but maintained there was plenty of entertainment, especially during the summer, for people of all ages.
The lack of signage has been brought up by visitors and residents in the past, Fearrey added, but some residents have also complained about “sign pollution” when more were installed.
He told Racicot that the municipality continues to work with other levels of government to improve cell and Internet service.
Heather Candler, an agriculture and rural economic development advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, told council at the meeting it was difficult to find a matching community for Haliburton.
“Trying to match you with a community that was a similar size, that was far enough away, took a while,” she said.
Dysart was a good match for Georgian Bay because of their fluctuations in seasonal resident populations, Racicot told The Highlander in a previous interview.
The Township of Georgian Bay has a permanent population of 2,500.
The feedback will help the municipality prioritize some of its goals for the future, said Tamara Wilbee, Dysart’s chief administrative officer.
Participants noted a few “quick wins” for Haliburton; ways the municipality could quickly improve certain aspects of the community. They included increased signage, more public waste bins, the installation of dedicated bike lanes, better crosswalks and an improved online presence.
Dysart’s own team of nine visited the Township of Georgian Bay mid-August. Representatives will visit the Township of Georgian Bay later this year to present their findings to that council.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.