October photo safari yields wildlife gems

I’ve had a couple of really delightful days with guests from California – discussing the implications of climate change policies, legislation, and tourism.   These wonderful folks had spent a few days in Churchill, Manitoba viewing polar bears and decided to come down to Riding Mountain National Park for a couple of days of wildlife viewing and photography.

While we were skunked on moose in the more accessible locations of travel, we did have quite a photo session with a beautiful Great Gray Owl in the middle of a light snowfall.


As well, we spotted a fisher (infrequent sightings), and had a few minutes to observe and photograph a badger.  A highlight was photographing snowflakes in the middle of a very thick snowfall and discovering some optical illusions reflected in the surface of water that were best captured with video.  A morning sunlight session today with bison topped off a great couple of days.

One of the things that was wonderful about working with these guests is that they understood that wildlife are not predictable.  They enjoyed the “zen of just being out there”, experiencing the landscape, the falling snow, bison behaviour, and the remarkable moments with the great gray owl, the fisher, and the badger.

Bison at Riding Mountain ©Celes Davar

Bison in morning sunlight


October 24 – International Climate Action Day


Take part in the international climate action day this coming Saturday, October 24.  Act – do something small.  If all you do is to sign the pledge on the front page of the 350.org website in the upper right hand corner.

What do you do on this national day of action?

Monterey, CA

Monterey, CA

“We’re calling on people around the world to organize an action on October 24 incorporating the number 350 at an iconic place in their community, and then upload a photo of their event to 350.org website.”

For ideas of cool ways to get together to portray the number 350, go to the following link and scroll to the bottom:  Your Action Photo

Read about The Science of 350, the Most Important Number on the Planet.  A really simple explanation.  350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

West End Cultural Centre Canada’s greenest music venue

Main concert venue at WECC

Main concert venue at WECC

What does that mean – Canada’s greenest music venue ?  Since when does responsible environmental policy meet the music industry in terms of venues, infrastructure and building operations?

Does this mean that the building is painted green on the outside, or that a smart approach integrating sound business management with sound environmental policy has been achieved?

Listen to the artistic director of Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre as he weaves a fascinating story – Dominic Lloyd Interview about this west end cultural facility and its connection to community, its restoration as a viable and relevant community performing arts venue (particularly music), and the innovative use of environmentally sound management practices that have reduced its carbon footprint.  This is leading edge stuff.  Someone nominate them for an award – they are going after LEED Silver in Canada as a performing arts venue.

Small concert venue at WECC - seen through re-used glass windows

Small concert venue at WECC - seen through re-used glass windows

Thanks Dominic – I’m looking forward to hearing Harry Manx at the West End Cultural Centre on October 27.  Tickets are available through the Winnipeg Folk Festival Music Store.  You’ll notice that I said that the Harry Manx concert is through the Winnipeg Folk Festival, but the performance is at the West End Cultural Centre.   This is part of their revenue strategy.  There are two concert spaces (one large, one small)

Diseased elm processed and used as flooring in the restored West End Cultural Centre

Diseased elm processed and used as flooring in the restored West End Cultural Centre

that are available for rent for a variety of community and public events.   Creating spaces for community that are culturally relevant, smart examples of business operations, and wonderfully rich in artistic diversity.  Great to see!

Dauphin appoints new Tourism and Events coordinator

Dauphin Economic Development appoints  Carla (Steiner) Wolfenden to tourism and events coordinator position.  I have long been a champion of seeing communities invest into their tourism future by hiring well-qualified people who bring energy, commitment, and a solid background into year-round positions.  Our community economic development officers and tourism officers are part of the strategy and tactics that local municipalities in rural Canada need to leverage to build new business opportunities and think smartly about tourism as an economic driver.

By having a full-time tourism officer, events and new tourism businesses can be fostered, continuity in marketing maintained, and the brand further developed.  But, most of all, tourism officers can use their salaries and time to leverage and attract new grants, funds, and stimulate the development of  relevant new sustainable and environmentally responsible businesses, benefiting the community in the long term.

Dauphin has several anchor events, cultural attractions and is located next to a national park.   By looking long-term at creating new tourism products and experiences with a tourism and events coordinator, I say …”That’s good.  That’s smart.  That’s good investment.”  One of the critical things that rural communities like Dauphin can do is add tourism programming (also known as tourism products, experiences or packaging) on a year-round basis, to take place within facilities that are available within the community.

Programming generates revenues. That’s what local people and travelers pay to take part in a program.  The Ukrainian Festival is a great example of cultural tourism that provides programming.  However, there are many more opportunities to offer much smaller experiences year-round for different markets that will generate good yields without the high overhead of volunteer time and expenses of a festival.  Small business tourism is diverse, and there is lots of room for some new, high quality tourism businesses within the northern gateway community to Riding Mountain National Park.

We would like to welcome Carla (Steiner) Wolfenden to Dauphin’s new position as Tourism and Events Coordinator.  She holds a Recreation Studies degree from the University of Manitoba and has a variety of international and local experiences from which to draw, in her new position.

Originally following the outdoor recreation path as a student and with jobs in Riding Mountain National Park and with Manitoba Conservation, circumstances led her to a two-year stint as the Executive Director of Recreation Connections Manitoba. Her involvement as a volunteer with Team Canada Volleyball then led her to the sport world, where she worked for 6 years as the National Teams Coordinator.

Much of the last eight years was also spent in Europe, including Austria, Germany and Greece, where her husband played volleyball in their respective professional leagues.  Having just finished a year of maternity leave, Carla now lives with her husband and son in Dauphin, and is happy to call it home again after so many years away.  She is excited to be involved in what promises to be a bright future for both Dauphin and the Parkland region.

David Bradstreet at Home Routes house concert in Onanole

It is wonderful when you can be completely surprised by artists whom you know very little about. And, so it was with David Bradstreet. His great songwriting, genuine love of music and songcrafting, and his professionalism were a delight to experience. Yet another Home Routes House Concert.

David also did a pretty nifty interview with Celes Davar, on the morning after the house concert.  He performs a couple of additional short riffs and gives a really great insight into a wonderful person, musician, and songwriter by performing an “as yet” unfinished song.  Have a listen to this delightful………….

Canadian Human Rights Museum asks for a new Director, Learning and Programming

The Canadian Human Rights Museum is taking a really great step forward with its advertising today for a new Director, Learning and Programming.  From my perspective, this is a very good strategic direction.   In my experience across this country, we are still living on the coat-tails of a “build it and they will come” mentality that has not lost its shine for rural municipalities who go after infrastructure money as the be-all and end-all for tourism investment.

The fallacy of this kind of business decision-making at the community level is that the community gets federal and/or provincial grant money, combined with local fund-raising. Local residents are fueled by high hopes for a signature facility within their community.  What they have not recognized is that infrastructure investment has to be paralleled by “programming investment”.  Programming is why audiences or visitors come, not facilities – unless the facility has a very specific and significant architectural motif (with international stature or cultural significance), and even then the lure for seeing the building may only last for a little while.  People want to “experience” music, arts, culture, tradition, speakers, celebrations, recognitions, and many other things.  They wish to take part, to learn, to interact.  This is “programming”.  Programming is what generates revenue over the long-term. And, programming that is experiential generates higher yields, and attracts additional markets.

This community tourism business strategy which emphasizes programming takes sustained effort over time, and different investments and often different community champions to develop experiences, programs, and market these programs to the right visitors.  Often, the people who have worked so hard to bring capital investments in the form of a new facility are not the right people to drive the development of revenue-generating programming.  To drive programming development requires a skill set of community members including an understanding of tourism, product development, programming, web marketing, niche marketing, quality assurance, and entrepreneurship in which new pricing and revenue models can be developed.  These people are also strong collaborators and know how to leverage new resources.

Community recreation facilities, museums, and many other community tourism organizations would do well to hire local directors of learning and programming (another name might be community development and programming officers).  The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is on the right track!

Taking Responsibility for One’s Own Garbage

This morning, as a number of landowners in Onanole went for their daily walk they were astonished to see that someone overnight had backed up a truck and dumped construction wastes, plastic bottles, coffee cups, and a host of other materials on a walking trail in a local sub-division.

What was astonishing was that anyone today would do something like this anywhere in Manitoba – and avoid having to take the materials to a local landfill.  What was insulting was to drop this material in a local residential sub-division, as if it was a local receptacle for trash.  Lots of metaphors come to mind!  Here is what this pile of garbage looked like.

Construction materials dumped on local walking trail

Construction materials dumped on local walking trail

As we turn the corner of October and are less than 9 weeks from the international meeting of over 190 nations of the world to obtain agreement on a new international climate treaty and reduction of carbon emissions, I am amazed that there are some who still treat our neighborhoods as trash bins. And there are many who treat the planet the same way.  What is needed is a very stiff NO – this is not acceptable –  from the citizens of our community and all over our planet – we need to clean up our messes.  And, those who pollute or do not care need to pay very heavily.  Putting a price on polluters and on the cost of carbon emissions is something that has been missing from our  economic forecasts.  They now need to be accounted for.

Clear Lake Golf Course (Onanole, Manitoba) is national finalist in Tourism Industry Awards

Clear Lake Golf Course - No 17 Green - a signature golf experience

Clear Lake Golf Course - No 17 Green - a signature golf experience

There is a buzz happening in Onanole, on the heels of the recently completed Sonics and Sojourns Festival of Learning and Music.  We have just learned that the team at the Clear Lake Golf Course (in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba) is short-listed as one of three finalists for the Parks Canada-sponsored Sustainable Tourism Award in the annual Tourism Industry of Canada’s national tourism awards.  This is a big deal!

The Clear Lake Golf Course is already a Canadian and world leader in operating with a new model of business savvy in a carbon-constrained world.   Their 16 year operation of the Clear Lake Golf Course includes one of Canada’s finest examples of green golf course management, a restaurant featuring local foods, a waste vegetable oil recycling and bio-diesel program, and investments that they have provided to support our community’s Onanole Community Centre.

This is what is meant by Triple Bottom Line accounting – when a business is profitable over the long term, environmentally accountable throughout its operations, and socially responsible through its human resource operations and support of local community. A great example of a sustainable business.

Great job Clear Lake Golf Course team !  Which includes leaders like Greg Holden, Ian and Lydia Sarna, Scott Shelbourne, and Ilse Mohn and many others who annually provide great service, welcome visitors each year, or carefully apply garlic extracts or tea tree oil on the golf course.   We are proud of you!