First impressions of South Dundas

Westport Deputy Treasurer Anne-Marie Koiner and Gananoque Economic Development Manager Shelley Hirstwood, answer questions from South Dundas councillors on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. The pair had released their first impressions report after a team of nine people visited the region in June. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

MORRISBURG – The township has received an outsiders’ view of navigating South Dundas and where it can make improvements.

Members of the First Impressions Community Exchange shared their findings Tuesday night at a township council meeting.

A team of nine people from the Gananoque-area visited the region in June and South Dundas did the same in Gananoque.

“It’s always nice to have a fresh pair of eyes,” said Shelley Hirstwood, economic development manager for Gananoque, during the presentation.

Among its findings, the group found the South Dundas website was user-friendly but it needed professional photos, a visitor section and also had some dated information.

There were also concerns about the lack of signage in the township, especially when it came to attractions like the Morrisburg beach.

As for culture and heritage, the Gananoque group found that South Dundas wasn’t capitalizing on the Iroquois Lock, the only Canadian side of the seaway where people can observe ships moving through the canal system.

Hirstwood said the culture “really resonated” with their group but it “was really hard to find. (There’s an) opportunity to share, teach but also honour the past,” she said.

When it came to tourism services, the group hit a stumbling block – they couldn’t access the Iroquois tourism center the entire time they were in the region. They had to rely on campgrounds and the ice cream shop for information.

The Morrisburg tourism center in the Village Plaza received good reviews, with students and a manager eager to help and the staff “went above and beyond and helped plan the “family reunion”” scenario the group had posed to them.

In summary, the First Impressions group found South Dundas’ five positive things were: the waterfront, the Iroquois Locks, the Morrisburg Theater, a friendly and safe atmosphere and murals throughout Morrisburg.

As for South Dundas’ five biggest challenges: plazas with dated infrastructure, visibility and information to direct people to the waterfront, property standards, limited online information and not capitalizing on existing tourism attractions.

Anne-Marie Koiner, deputy clerk for Westport, outlined the opportunities for South Dundas to make improvements.

Those include capitalizing on the Iroquois Locks, honouring the township’s history, enhancing the streetscape of Morrirsburg and improving signage.

The outsider study cost the township around $500.

South Dundas will present its findings on Gananoque to the town on Sept. 20, 2016.