Killarney Mountain Lodge bows to community market pressure

Killarney Mountain Lodge Shutterstock

KILLARNEY – Killarney Mountain Lodge has developed a well-deserved reputation for top tier tourism experiences, but the popular resort found itself on the wrong side of the creek when it came to a planned Family Day offering—leading eventually to a cancellation of the event.

The Family Day event centred around outdoor activities and the resort had put a number of protocols in place that exceeded all recommendations…except one, the provincial stay-at-home order. To be fair, the Family Day event was planned months ahead of time and in anticipation of the lockdown restrictions loosening up before the resort would be greeting customers.

“At any other time, we think this would be wonderful, a great way to build the winter tourism sector, support the businesses and have a lot of fun,” Killarney Mayor Nancy Wirtz said in media interviews. “It’s just the timing right now. It doesn’t seem like the right time to start this kind of event. It’s the idea of people travelling for non-essential reasons and coming into a community like ours that is so vulnerable.”

The municipality went to the length of posting a request on its webpage for tourists to refrain from visiting the community and warning of the potential for out of area travellers to incur fines of up to $1,000 for not obeying the provincial orders against non-essential travel. Anecdotal claims that the OPP had issued fines to those visiting the resort were dispelled by the OPP detachment’s communications team.

In the end, the controversy shut down the event, with cancellations of bookings making the final call.

The mayor was conciliatory to the resort owners and management, noting that they were not doing anything illegal. 

“The issue here is not that the event itself is illegal,” she said. “Hotels and resorts are allowed to be open—and it looks like Killarney Mountain Lodge has gone to all the proper channels in terms of delivering the activities they’d like to deliver in a friendly manner.”

For their part, the lodge admitted they were disappointed with the municipality’s reaction.

“We’re pretty disappointed,” said Kelly McAree, chief revenue and strategy officer of the Killarney Mountain Lodge and Sportsman Inn. “We consider ourselves good, upstanding members of our community and support the community in all sorts of endeavours with donations and employment for a good portion of the community members. We don’t feel that we’ve been treated fairly.”

Mr. McAree pointed out that the resort had worked with Public Health Sudbury and Districts to ensure that all proper protocols were being followed before planning and going ahead with the event, which included three portable ice rinks specially set up for their guests that could be rented privately by the hour by individual family units—who were also advised to bring their own food and beverages and to remain within their bubbles while at the resort.

Added to those precautions were daily temperature tests of staff and a strict program sanitizing rooms and facilities at the lodge. Management pointed out that no incidents related to COVID-19 had occurred during the pandemic. They attributed the pushback against the event to about eight community members who were very vocal in their opposition. 

Killarney is a small community of under 400 year-round residents who are primarily older and in vulnerable cohorts, a factor cited by the mayor as the key factor behind the municipality’s reaction.

The management, for their part, while acknowledging the challenges faced by the mayor and council voiced hope that they would listen to what the operators allege is most of the community who are supportive of the business.

In the final analysis, booking cancellations in the face of community opposition led to the cancellation of the event, with both sides hoping that the coming summer season will see better times ahead.