During Monday evening’s Committee of the Whole meeting in Smiths Falls, Leslie Richardson from the Smiths Falls Chamber of Commerce made a brief presentation to council.
In 2022 the Chamber wished to set up a cantina in Victoria Park next to the Visitor’s Centre, which is run by the Chamber. Council supported this proposal, however, the land along the south side of the basin is owned by Parks Canada, and is leased by the town. Parks Canada refused the Chamber’s request to be allowed to place a cantina on this property.
“We need to better understand why Smiths Falls is not being supported in creating meaningful tourist attractions,” Richardson said, pointing out that Parks Canada allows food vendors on or near the canals in other communities; why not here? The cantina would encourage guests to experience the canal and sit and stay a while.
The Chamber of Commerce sees the inclusion of a cantina as a necessary income stream, a valuable tourist draw, and an asset to the town. “The cantina will animate the park, promote longer stays, and encourage repeat visits,” explained Richardson. “Additional revenue streams are needed for visitor services. The Chamber remains deeply committed to finding a solution that meets the needs of the community and businesses.”
Councilor Peter McKenna agreed with Richardson that this is not an unreasonable request. “I would request that staff work with the Chamber and come back with some kind of proposal to engage Parks Canada on this. Up and down the canal, there’s both hard services and food services. We just want fairness. Congratulations to the Chamber on hanging in there. We’re all interested in attracting and keeping [visitors].”
Mayor Shawn Pankow was on board with this as well. “You’re right. Parks [Canada] allows seasonal businesses along the canal in Ottawa in winter, why not seasonal businesses along the canal in Smiths Falls in the summer?
We have a lot of ongoing dialogue with Parks Canada, and we’ll do what we can to accelerate that discussion.”
In the event that Parks Canada is not amenable to changing their decision, Richardson proposed alternative sites for a cantina, including on town-owned land or on a pontoon boat moored at the town’s docks.
Councilor Dawn Quinn pointed out that March begins this week; spring and summer are just around the corner. The time to move on this is now.
Council instructed staff to meet with the Chamber of Commerce ahead of discussions with Parks Canada on this topic.
The downtown restaurants aren’t busy enough and now the town and Chamber of Commerce want to take the boater business away from them…I’d be real impressed if I owned one of those establishments…..Stupid thinking!!!!!