By Lisa Gervais

The County of Haliburton is cancelling its Hike Haliburton Winter Edition for the second year in a row.

Director of economic development and tourism, Scott Ovell, cited COVID-19 protocols and regulations in forcing his department, and the County’s, hand.

The decision was made at a Jan. 12 committee of the whole meeting.

The first-ever edition made its debut on Feb. 8-9, 2020 across the County but has not been back as a result of the pandemic.

Ovell said, “the unknowns related to when restrictions will be lifted has impacted planning for the event and staff do not feel it is prudent to market or promote the festival given the current circumstances.”

Instead, he said in February and March, pending COVID-19 safety protocols, staff will promote the County’s snowshoe page along with content regarding self-guided hikes to help augment the cancellation of the event.

“Staff still plan to proceed with the Hike Haliburton Festival in the fall of 2022 and will begin planning the program this Spring,” he added. “Should government protocols change again, a report will be brought back to committee (of the whole) from staff to identify alternative options.”

He said his department plans to include the Hike Haliburton Winter Edition in the 2023 operational budget. With plans to spend $10,000 this year, he asked that the money be placed in a reserve for an enhanced winter festival next year.

Ovell said the inaugural version was comprised of 20 guided snowshoe hikes. Three-hundred people  participated for an average of 15 participants per hike. The hikes were spread around the County, with each municipality included and varied in length from 1.5 to 10 kilometres. Five hikes took place on private land. The full hike program and registration occurred entirely online, which saved printing costs.

A few events highlights included: 97 per cent of participants rated the festival as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’; all indicated they would participate again in future years; 83 per cent (249) of participants were seasonal or permanent residents; 17 per cent (51) were visitors; 58 per cent said they spent money at restaurants during the festival; 26 per cent at retailers and 16 per cent at restaurant and retailers.

Warden Liz Danielsen said, “sadly, it seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. You hate to have to make this kind of decision but it’s definitely in order.”