Muskoka Wharf, Ontario Canada.
A major new tourism project becomes reality today. The Muskoka Wharf project will re-establish the historic and pre-eminent gateway to Muskoka, and provide an attraction for visitors to Ontario that will rival famous heritage-themed destinations across North America. The Muskoka Wharf project partners include the Town of Gravenhurst, Evanco, Forrec, and the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society. The Retail and Food & Beverage consultants and planners were Talbot Consultants International Inc. of Unionville, Toronto.
The “Muskoka Wharf” development will be focused on natural and heritage attractions on the shores of Lake Muskoka in Gravenhurst, building on the success of the R.M.S. Segwun steamship and related historic facilities, which are already one of Ontario’s premier attractions and natural heritage sites.
The original Muskoka Wharf, adjacent to the new development site, was the primary gateway to the resorts of the Muskoka Lakes from the days of the region’s earliest development. Stagecoaches and then the railway brought visitors and seasonal residents to the edge of Muskoka Bay, and they continued their journeys on a host of steamships that first began traversing the lakes in the late 1860’s.
With an estimated total value of over $60 million, “Muskoka Wharf” will provide new and enhanced heritage-based attractions that are integrated with the natural Muskoka landscape and waterfront, and complemented with new retail, food service, and accommodation facilities.
The project partners are aiming to create a memorable recreational, entertainment, and retail experience that will attract approximately 520,000 visitors on a four-season basis. That would make it one of the largest tourism destinations north of Toronto.
As a result of the projected positive impact that the Muskoka Wharf project will have on the economy of the area, the Federal and Provincial Governments have each made significant financial contributions towards the project’s success. FedNOR has previously contributed $496,000.00 towards the project planning costs. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation has committed $4,995,000.00 towards the construction of the publically-owned components of the project, including boardwalks, public docks, and other facilities.
Today, the Superbuild Corporation is providing nearly $10,000,000.00 to the Muskoka Wharf project. These funds will assist the Town of Gravenhurst and its project partners in fully developing the major heritage-themed tourism destination on Gravenhurst Bay, Lake Muskoka.
The scope of the project, its heritage theme and its waterfront location will make “Muskoka Wharf” a tourism attraction that will compare to international destinations such as Niagara-on-the-Lake, Granville Island in Vancouver, Frankenmuth in Michigan, and Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.
The project will provide immense benefits to the local community and the regional economy, as well as being a leading new attraction for the Ontario tourism sector.
The Major Components of the Project
The major components of this project will be fully integrated and complementary to the elements that are already in place in the Muskoka Bay area.
The existing Segwun steamship (voted as the #1 large attraction in Ontario, 2001 by Attractions Canada), the Wanda III passenger vessel, and visitor facilities at the northeast end of the site will be enhanced with the addition of the new replica passenger ship (Wenonah II) and the development of new cultural and historical elements to strengthen the existing heritage attraction anchor. The Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market, recently chosen as the Farmers’ Market of the Year (Seasonal Category), 2001, will continue as an integral part of the overall attraction.
A new heritage attraction anchor in the southwest location will include a large boathouse to provide public display space (slips and dry-dock) for antique boats, including the Wanda III, and cater to the demand for wooden boat building schools. Also, a major museum/interpretive centre will reflect the boating, tourism, and lumbering history of the region, and it will be a significant attraction for school groups in off-season periods.
The area adjacent to the waterfront, between the anchors, will house a combination of related retail, food and beverage facilities, which will benefit from the traffic created by the anchors, while providing an attraction in their own right. This retail component will itself be anchored by a high-end restaurant and a lifestyle fashion store, to create a year-round attraction that is also a viable winter business, even in the harshest of winter conditions.
Much needed visitor accommodation facilities for the Gravenhurst area will be provided in the form of a 100-room motor inn, with a pedestrian link to the retail and food amenities within the Muskoka Wharf project area.
Expanded parking, mooring facilities, vehicular and pedestrian access will be organized to facilitate circulation throughout the entire development, and integrated into the natural setting.
Significant portions of the site will preserve the natural Muskoka landscape and provide substantial new parkland for the community. These areas will be augmented by walking trails, picnic areas, waterfront viewing areas, and observation platforms and pavilions in various locations, thus ensuring long-term public access to the waterfront. Over 60% of the project is parkland.
The project will have linkages to the rest of the Gravenhurst community through enhanced road access, trail extensions and new walkways, and a trolley system that connects the existing major commercial centres of the Town with the site.
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