Kerry Costello, Director of Corporate Services, presented a Refreshment Vehicle Request to the council of the town of Smiths Falls on Monday evening. The Chamber of Commerce, which runs the visitors centre at Victoria Park, requested the town’s permission to set up a cantina on the play structure’s gravel pad next to the yellow airplane in the park. (The play structure is boarded up and slated for removal later this summer.) The proposed solar-powered cantina would serve a Mexican menu, including vegetarian and vegan options.
Director Costello noted that the property is leased by the town from Parks Canada, so both they and the town of Smiths Falls would have to be in agreement to allow the cantina to operate. Parks Canada would ultimately have the decision if they’re going to permit it on their property or not.
Leslie Richardson, from the Smiths Falls Chamber of Commerce, shared her vision of the cantina as a place that encourages people to gather and spend more time around the basin.
“Each summer the Chamber operates Visitor Services in Victoria Park,” she explained, noting that the loss of the campground (a decision made by Parks Canada) has caused a major reduction in income for the Chamber. Tasked with finding new revenue streams for the Chamber, Richardson proposed a cantina in Victoria Park.
The visitor’s centre is already used to its fullest potential, she explained, but by providing a mobile eatery the Chamber can meet the need of tourists and local patrons alike. Richardson hoped that “creating a memorable first impression will result in increased return visits, and encourage longer stays.”
Councilor Lorraine Allen commented “I love this idea! The park is a beautiful place for a picnic, but up until now, you would have to bring one with you.”
Mayor Shawn Pankow was also in approval. “It will be a natural draw – I’m sure boaters will time their arrivals to make sure they can enjoy it while they’re here. To support the Chamber, I support removing the play structure ahead of time to enable you to locate there. The play structure is frankly end-of-life; it’s time to move on to what will be a better play solution there for children.”
Councilor Jay Brennan congratulated Richardson on her proposal, “really what a great hit. We’ve lost a great deal of revenue, given the removal of the campground, and Leslie is thinking outside the box. It’s a cantina, and it’s offering something no one else is offering.”
Brennan noted that the Chamber received letters of support for this idea from le Boat and the Pickled Pig, two other businesses on the basin.