The County of Haliburton hopes to work with Dysart et al, Minden Hills, Highlands East, and Algonquin Highlands on unified wayfinding signs.

Director of economic development and tourism, Scott Ovell, brought the idea to a County committee of the whole meeting June 8. His report came after discussions with Dysart et al’s cultural resources committee at the end of April and a subsequent recommendation from Dysart et al council.

That committee wanted to talk to Ovell and director of tourism Tracie Bertrand about signs for not just Dysart but the County as well.

Wayfinding signage is any type of sign that gives direction. They help people easily find their way without long explanations or complicated maps.

While Dysart et al council is onboard, Ovell said he’d talk to other townships to see if they want a countywide plan, too.

He said he and Bertrand have experience in leading and implementing similar projects in other municipalities, including processes, timeframes, roles and responsibilities.

He noted Dysart’s committee and the County’s Destination Management Plan had both identified improved wayfinding signage as a benefit to the community.

“A consistent, organized and unique wayfinding program will help to provide visitors to Haliburton County with better awareness of our community assets, while still promoting a sense of discovery,” Ovell said.

He added it, “can create a recognizable cultural identity for the County that communicates an innovative, transformative and authentic experience by installing and strengthening signage that exemplifies the County of Haliburton’s identity as a destination while improving signage for attractions, facilities, parking, parks and trails and the communities within it.”

Ovell said County staff would lead the development of the plan with support from the townships – if they opt in – and a third-party firm would likely be required at some point.

He noted it’s difficult to determine the overall cost without knowing the level of support from the townships and County Council but estimated $20,000 to $30,000, not taking into account making and installing the signs. He said staff could look into grant opportunities.

Coun. Andrea Roberts said the concept had been talked about at Dysart et al for some time and she was excited it had now come to the County table.

“The time is really right for us to do something like this across the County and to have a sort of brand that we can look at for visitors coming into our County for clear signage, to know where they’re going,” she said.

Roberts added she had recently visited Bruce and Huron counties which had signs with crests and logos pointing the way to things such as fairgrounds and arenas. She thought a lot of the local work could be done in-house.

Warden Liz Danielsen said it would be good to have consistent signage in the County.

Coun. Carol Moffatt said the idea had been identified during the community exchange program and was a long time coming.

“I’m really glad to see this … there is tremendous value in it,” she said. She added that in an exchange with Prince Edward County, that county also pointed to private businesses off the beaten path. Ovell said he would be aiming for municipal assets only during phase one. He said involving businesses would require a higher level of consultation and it can be highly sensitive if one business gets a sign, while another does not.

Ovell said it was a bit premature to predict what the signs would look like. That will come at the design stage after public and council consultation.

Coun. Cec Ryall said even though Highlands East rebranded three years ago, he would be in support of a countywide program.

Coun. Brent Devolin added he supported anything being done on a countywide basis. “It’s a great idea. Let’s get this done as quickly as possible.”

Hike Haliburton add-ons

The County will add a Haliburton County Rail Trail hike to this year’s Hike Haliburton and do its best to crack down on ‘no shows.’

The changes were the result of feedback from County council’s committee of the whole April 13.

Bertrand said there is a process to collect email addresses and correspond with hike registrants. Staff recommended reminder emails. They further suggested increasing the number of people who can participate in each hike from 12 to 15 last year; now allowing for registration of up to 20 per hike in 2022 in order to compensate for approximately a 25 per cent “no show” rate. They also suggested a waiting list and an unregister button in emails.

Bertrand added staff are looking to add a hike from the Haliburton County Rail Trail head to Cemetery Road in Gelert. It will be called the “Two-Rivers Hike” with a stop at Ritchie Falls and Drag River rapids just before Gelert. The end point would be Cemetery Road. The County will fund a shuttle bus for $300.

Moffatt asked if the new hike would have hike leaders telling stories or sharing history. Ovell said Bertrand is talking with Friends of the Rail Trail about them participating and being the hike leaders to provide a more interpretive hike on the history of the area.

Hike Haliburton is Sept. 21-25 this year.