How exciting it has been to see the new Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre hosting two major events in its first month of operations: the Great Spirit Circle Trail’s own tourism business conference earlier in June and, last week, the annual gathering of the Chiefs of Ontario organization which brought the chiefs of nearly every First Nation in Ontario to Manitoulin.
This has clearly been a boon to the community, in particular to other businesses that offer support services to the new hotel as well as to the local retail community that benefits from more shoppers in town.
The success of the Chiefs of Ontario event, however, makes it clear that, from time to time when the new facility will play host to more gatherings of this magnitude, the hotel and the Northeast Town must work on a plan to address overflow parking since the hotel’s parking lot, although it is ample for the ordinary use of a hotel, was overwhelmed by the number of cars that delegates needed to park somewhere.
The result was that all local parking spaces in the neighbourhood were taken up (the Welcome Centre’s, the Community Fitness Centre’s) as well as roadside spaces along Highway 6 and on Sims Street.
It’s wonderful to see this level of activity that brings so many people to Little Current and to Manitoulin Island.
But should such an event, similar to the Chiefs of Ontario gathering, take place during a snowy winter week, it’s easy to imagine the difficulty such a parking overflow would generate.
The event last week clearly demonstrates the potential that the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre can anticipate.
But it has also demonstrated the need for convenient overflowing parking for such large gatherings.
There is property across from the new hotel, along Highway 6/Meredith Street between Little Current’s water treatment plant and the swing bridge that has been vacant since the railway spur line to the Little Current freight station was decommisioned and the rails and ties removed.
There is also an undeveloped street access there, where Shaftesbury Street meets Highway 6, and these lots would be the ideal location to accommodate such overflow parking, when the need arises.
It is in the mutual interest of both the municipality and its newest large taxpayer to find convenient additional parking space, ideally on municipally-controlled property but possible private landowners in the area could also be part of the solution before the situation reaches official problem status.