Council reviewing strategic plan before taking action

GORE BAY—Gore Bay council will first review a strategic plan that has been developed for the town with the input of local residents, businesses and visitors, before considering and taking action on recommendations provided in it.

“We have received the strategic plan for the town, and I guess it’s on our agenda tonight for comments and possible approval,” stated Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane at a recent council meeting.

Mayor Lane explained that the bulk of the work in developing the plan was carried out by the town office and LAMBAC  representatives.  This included several  meetings, including  those with members of the public. As well, a survey was completed of local residents and visitors.

“The document is at the stage for council to review and approve it. Then it will be circulated to the public and we can take action on it,” said Mayor Lane.

Council agreed to provide some time for councillors to review the document prior to it coming back to council for consideration.

In 2015, council wanted to re-evaluate the town’s strategic plan (from 2002) to see where the Town stands today and identify what factors will influence its future.

The 2016 strategic plan is the result of a year-long engagement with businesses, residents, visitors, town employees, council, and community groups.

The strategic plan is meant to clarify the outcomes Gore Bay wishes to achieve: to form strategies that will enable Gore Bay to achieve these outcomes, and a means to measure and evaluate progress.

A community profile overview was completed taking in population numbers, amenities and services provided in the town, as well as its business shopping, recreation, culture opportunities and listing its service clubs.

As part of the visioning process, a situational analysis was performed in order to discover where the town is at present. A comprehensive analysis was conducted to determine the town’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

“The results of the resident survey and stakeholders sessions echoed the analysis that was conducted by the committee of council. Consistently throughout the survey and stakeholders sessions residents expressed a sense of pride felt in Gore Bay, and that the town is an active, busy community, that is also well serviced. The all-embracing theme conveyed was a sense of community expressed through the amount of volunteerism and participation in special events,” the plan indicates.

A high percentage of residents expressed concern over an aging infrastructure system. When residents  were asked what they felt the town should prioritize over the next three to five years, the answers were as follows: maintain town infrastructure and roads; maintain town recreational facilities; expand business opportunity and private services; amalgamation of services/government; and development of a tourism plan.

When asked what type of businesses the town should try to attract, the largest percentage of answeed suggested light industry, followed be recreational, medical services, personal services and entertainment services.

The visitor survey helped to highlight what attracts people to the town and how else visitors would like. Visitors were asked what three things they liked about their visit and listed scenery, nature at the top followed by friendliness, people; atmosphere, marina/harbour; food and restaurants; hiking and biking; facilities and shops; famers’ market; art and theatre and inns.

“The results clearly identify what is missing from Gore Bay, but also what is valued by its visitors,” the plan continued. “Two separate stakeholder sessions were held in the fall. The first was for service clubs and not-for-profit groups, the second was for businesses. Each session was facilitated by LAMBAC. The questions asked were geared towards finding solutions, providing focus and priorities for the strategic  plan.”

“The next stage in the process took all the gathered information into consideration. The feedback received helps shape our mission, vision, values and areas of focus to give a foundation for our goals and objectives,” the plan continues.

It was explained, “the goals include provide and improve on senior and youth programs, identify the needs of seniors and youth in the community, build a new seniors’ centre, possibly combine a seniors’ centre with a youth centre, fitness and medical centre; design and implement programs for seniors and  and youth including wellness programs.”

The plan called  for “achieving a balance of public policy and private interest,  including minimizing the negative impact on individual citizens when creating regulations, and to become proactive instead of reactive in identifying regulation gaps and involve the community.”

“Be the health care centre for Western Manitoulin including maintaining  and expanding medical services by attracting health professionals such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, optometrists, chiropractors, etc. and developing a medical travel assistance program.”

The recommendations noted the town needs to, “develop recreational programs and facilities that meet the needs of the community. This could include create, maintain and improve local walking trails; hiring a recreational director; building a recreation complex including arena, gym, swimming pool and fitness centre and research, create and implement new programs for recreation.”

“Another focus is develop a plan for newcomers, both before they arrive and once they’ve arrived. This includes continuing the welcome wagon for people who have recently moved here; maintaining a  list of services and local knowledge to provide to newcomers; research the newcomer strategy in other municipalities and groups, e.g. the Sudbury YMCA,” the plan continues. “Have a system in place to identify newcomers.”

On the issue of infrastructure the four prioritized goals, “include ensuring our streets, curbs, and sidewalks meet the current and future needs of the town; ensuring our public buildings  meet the current and future needs of the town; ensure the marina facilities are meeting the needs of the boating community and maintain and expand on existing fire services.”

In the area of tourism the recommendations include, “maximize our potential in attracting and retaining visitors by development of a marketing strategy for the town, and developing a four season tourism plan.”

For partnerships, “the goal is to maximize the towns opportunities through effective use of partnerships  including fostering  and developing public-private partnerships.”

For business the goals are to foster an environment that stimulates business prosperity. “The town needs to become an information hub and have an open-door policy to assist businesses in any way possible, with attracting businesses to fill in gaps of service and determine the needs of the business community,” it is recommended.