Parkland County is well-known for its agriculture and farming industry, but the features that make its farming and agriculture sector so abundant also carry a lot of potential for other areas of economic growth and development. That “rural charm” setting creates a lot of space for outdoor recreation and leisure—and that means it’s a high time for tourism to step out onto the scenic route.
As Candace Charron, Tourism Business Development Officer, Parkland County, explains, “The tourism industry has been a proven contributor to national, provincial, and local economic growth. In Alberta as a whole, the direct tourism expenditures in 2015 were approximately $8.1 billion. Of this total, the Edmonton & Area region accounted for $1.8 billion. These statistics are provided by the Government of Alberta.”
“In addition to direct spending,” Charron continues, “there are many positive impacts of tourism in Parkland County, including job creation, tax benefits, attraction of new businesses to the region, and spin-off economic impacts for surrounding hamlets, businesses, and accommodations.”
Tourism, Charron notes, also provides a means of combatting some of the challenges the area faces.
“In Parkland County, tourism has allowed for many residents to start businesses from their own homes. This has allowed families and their neighbours to stay in rural locations without having to commute to major centres for employment opportunities—in turn increasing their quality of life. In many cases, tourism is done on farms to diversify their income and entice newer generations to stay longer.”
“A large issue facing rural communities is out-migration of people. I believe the tourism industry can help slow this process.”
The tourism industry may be able to help Parkland County face some of its challenges, but tourism wouldn’t be able to create these opportunities if Parkland County wasn’t so well-equipped for the industry’s demands.
“Due to Parkland County’s location between Edmonton and Jasper, its beautiful natural amenities, strong entrepreneurial spirit, and its proximity to the Edmonton International Airport, tourism has been on the rise in our region. A few highlights for the upcoming 2018 summer season include the grand opening of the Aga Khan Garden at the U of A Botanic Gardens, the Edmonton Corn Maze building a public market onsite that will retail locally produced food, Putting Horse Ranch quickly selling out their weekends for the newly expanded wedding venue, and Alberta Open Farm Days growing their participation throughout the region in a big way!”
Who are some of the businesses who are powering Parkland County’s tourism industry?
“The U of A Botanic Gardens sees 75,000 visitors annually, and 2018 will be no exception,” Charron predicts. “Once the newly developed Aga Khan Gardens open up, they are expecting to double their visitation, which will include many international travelers. Each summer, many locals are hired to put on large events, to host weddings, to and provide school programming. They continue to be one of Parkland County’s strongest tourism ambassadors.”
“The Edmonton Corn Maze attracts thousands of visitors throughout the summer and fall season,” Charron continues. “This year, they are expanding their offerings by building a public market that will retail locally sourced products. Jesse and Dan continue to give a great representation of agri-tourism in Parkland County.”
Edmonton Canoe and Pembina River Tubing also take advantage of the tourism opportunities the areas natural features provide.
“Drawing people out from Edmonton for family trips, corporate team building or an outing with friends, Edmonton Canoe provides guided canoe trips down the North Saskatchewan River,” Charron describes, and “Pembina River Tubing is one of the larger tourist attractions out west. They provide tubing and transportation, allowing people to safely float down the Pembina River. You’ll see their name popping up in Edmonton blogs throughout the summer as one of the top activities in the region.”
“This gentle river gives you a relaxing float down the Pembina River Gorge and a glimpse at 10,000 years of history,” describes Cheryl Harris of Pembina River Tubing. “You can see the many layers of life that went into making the gorge. As you float the river, you can see wildlife, such as deer, moose, cliff swallows, palanquin falcons, and many others.”
Happy Acres U-Pick is “an environmentally conscious u-pick, providing chemical-free fruits and vegetables,” Charron notes, and Creekside Home and Garden is a year-round, family owned, independent garden centre, greenhouse, tree nursery, and home décor and fashion shop: “We receive a lot of visitors from outside Parkland County, such as the city of Edmonton and the municipalities in the Capital Region,” says Brock Friesen, Owner, Creekside Home and Garden. “People will travel fairly far in the spring to get their ‘plant fix,’ so we have customers driving from Strathcona, St. Albert, Leduc County & city, and further (including Drayton Valley and Barrhead).”
“Tourism increases the dollars spent within our local economy that are coming from outside, which directly benefits us and indirectly benefits us by bringing dollars to neighbouring businesses, thereby improving the whole local economy,” Friesen points out.
Charron also points to Get Hooked Fishing Adventures and Lunkers Fishing Adventures for their tourism contributions: “Both fishing companies offer guided fishing tours all summer. As well, Get Hooked offers ice fishing and Lunkers is starting to get into it.”
“Young Guns Paintball is a world-class facility, featuring 18 playing fields,” Charron adds.
“We get a lot of tourists from Edmonton, but our major events also raise levels of tourism to the area. People come from as far as Eastern Canada, Western Canada, and the United States. That draw definitely supports local business revenues and brings new money into the community,” says Brandon Frick, one of the original four owners of Young Guns Paintball.
Charron also adds Putting Horse Ranch to the list of businesses that are making big contributions to the growing tourism industry. “The area is great for tourists to visit,” observes Liz Poburan, co-owner of Putting Horse Ranch. “From the farms and ranches to the beautiful golf courses and eco-tourism, Putting Horse Ranch offers just that: a family-friendly atmosphere with golf activities as well as horse encounters. Weddings with golf for the entire family and guests is a big hit and attracts those looking for a private setting.”
“Parkland County is known for its beautiful natural amenities and the opportunity to participate in outdoor adventure,” Charron observes, acknowledging the areas three Provincial Parks River Provincial Park, Wabamun Provincial Park, and Lois Hole Provincial Park—and multiple other campgrounds. “In order to increase the length of visitation, it’s vital that we have multiple campgrounds and bed & breakfasts that fit within that theme. We are lucky to be home to 15 campgrounds and four bed & breakfasts, including the Pembina River Provincial Park, Wabamun Provincial Park, Lois Hole Provincial Park, the Entwistle RV Campground, Trestle Creek Golf Resort, Pineridge Golf Resort, Deer Meadows Golf Course & RV Park, Hubbles Lake RV Resort, Kokanee Springs RV Park, Mike Lake & RV Campground, Allan Beach Resort, Wabamun Marina and RV Park, Sunset Shoes RV Park, Shadybrook Campground, Glowing Embers RV Park, Spring Lake RV Resort, Royalty Retreat Bed, Breakfast & Spa, Misty Meadows Bed & Breakfast, Greystone Gardens Bed & Breakfast, and Whitewood Sands Bed & Breakfast. You’ll also see many locations on Air B&B,” she adds.
And of course, as reported in Business in Edmonton Magazine’s last Parkland County feature, the area’s 12 golf courses provide strong contributions to the growth of Parkland County’s tourism industry, too.
“On the doorstep of the City of Edmonton, Parkland County has exciting activities for individuals of all ages and families,” Charron concludes. “Whether you are seeking outdoor activities, like hunting, fishing, boating, or golfing, or whether you prefer visiting farmers’ markets, experiencing arts and culture, or love shopping, Parkland County has unique experiences that you will keep you coming back.”
If you want to learn more about tourism opportunities in Parkland County, contact Candace Charron, Tourism Business Development Officer, Parkland County: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.parklandcounty.com.