Mount Stewart, Georgetown, Murray River, you name it – Frank MacEachern has been all over Kings County these past few months.
And he's hoping to get more tourists to check it out for themselves, he said.
"We want the uniqueness of every community to shine through."
MacEachern has been doing research for a pilot initiative called the P.E.I. Trail Town project on behalf of Innovation P.E.I. As part of his research, he's met with several community and municipal councils across Kings County to see whether they might be interested in getting involved.
The project is inspired by popular tourism routes such as the Great Allegheny Passage in the U.S. and El Camino de Santiago in Spain. Partnering communities in Kings County would become connected via its existing routes and trails – such as the Confederation Trail – and then recognized officially as "trail towns."
These trail towns would be promoted as a collective travel destination for adventure tourists such as hikers, cyclists and possibly even river paddlers to explore. When MacEachern pitched the project to the province, it felt that Kings County was the best place to try it out, he said.
"Once the model is approved, the intention would be to roll this out."
AT A GLANCE:
- The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) runs for about 240 kilometres from Maryland to Pennsylvania in the United States.
- Frank MacEachern, project manager of the P.E.I. Trail Town project, said it popularized the trail town model, mainly because of how it was marketed.
- Over a course of about 10 years, the GAP brought about $50 million to its trail towns and helped create about 60 new businesses. The model has since been used elsewhere, including in Canada, MacEachern said.
To be a trail town, certain infrastructure would be required, such as public washrooms and water fountains in each community. Clear mapping and signage would be required so that tourists never get confused as to where they are and what's available.
"It should be clear you have arrived in a trail town," MacEachern said.
Much of the project focuses on assessing and marketing each trail town's existing resources. Partnerships would be made with local businesses to see how tourists could best make use of them - for example, stores that sell bike locks could be promoted as such so that arriving cyclists know where to snag a new one.
"Helping existing businesses grow their revenues," he said. "(And) going that extra mile to welcome tourists."
Marketing the towns as a whole rather than individually will make them more attractive for this demographic of tourists. The idea is to get more tourists passing through each town, with each town's goal being to entice them to stay a night or two, MacEachern said.
"If they can get you to spend the night there, you're going to spend six to eight times more money."
JoAnne Dunphy, mayor of Souris, finds herself agreeing that being a trail town would have a lot of benefits, she said.
MacEachern presented to Souris' council at a recent monthly meeting. Dunphy is willing to support the project as she believes it would bring more tourists to the area and would help Souris to grow.
"(And) it'd be great to have places to stay along the way," she said.
Edward MacAulay, mayor of Three Rivers, said he's quite willing to look into supporting the project after MacEachern made a presentation to his council at a June meeting.
He'd first want to know what the financial commitment would be from each community and would want to gauge interest among the various communities of Three Rivers.
"I hope a lot of people will jump on board," he said at the meeting.
MacEachern is currently finishing up a report on his research and feedback from each community he's met with, which he intends to submit in August. An avid cyclist himself, he knows how popular this style of tourism is, and he doesn't see it slowing down in a post-COVID-19 world, he said.
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.