Plans moving ahead for tourist information centre

January 29, 2024, 10:11 am
Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Casey McCormac, Economic Development Officer for the Town of Moosomin, gave an update on the tourist information centre to Chamber members during their Jan. 23 meeting.

Spurred by a notion that rose from last summer’s Communities in Bloom judges, plans for a tourist information centre along Highway 1 continue to formulate. Casey McCormac, Economic Development Officer with the Town of Moosomin, provided an update on the project during last week’s Chamber of Commerce meeting.

“Our plan now is to do a new build. We want to go kitty corner from the Red Barn, about a 1,000 square foot building,” she said. “We want it to look similar to an old general store.”

A site plan has been drawn up and approval from the Ministry of Highways is being sought. McCormac also noted plans are to apply for a PrairiesCan federal government grant, which will help cover the cost of the new building.

“We’ll have bathrooms, tourist information, eventually a dog park and picnic tables there because we know that people will stop for the washrooms and the dog park and then from there, it’s our job to get people to move into Moosomin and go shopping, going out to eat, whatever else,” she explained. “Buy-in from the community is important for this because it’s benefiting the businesses in Moosomin.”

McCormac has also reached out to entities such as Tourism Saskatchewan for their expertise, and the Town of Maple Creek—a centre with a popular tourist information centre and one that also shares the distinction of being a gateway community along a provincial border.

“We’re talking to Maple Creek because they have one there,” McCormac said. “Our biggest expense will be wages, because we want to have someone there all summer that can help people out.”

In a technological world chock-full of information at our fingertips, some may think a physical structure dedicated to providing travel tips may no longer be pertinent. Anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise as travellers continue to seek answers to their questions in the preferred face-to-face method.

“A lot of people don’t think that people stop anymore because of our phones, but all summer, The World-Spectator, the town office, we have people stopping every single day to ask questions about Moosomin, and about not even just Moosomin, but places in Saskatchewan since we are the first stop into Saskatchewan,” McCormac said.

View from the west
For McCormac to seek out advice from the Town of Maple Creek is a wise decision. Both Moosomin and Maple Creek share the honour of being the first major centre entering Saskatchewan from a provincial border, both also along the Trans Canada Highway. Given the fact that those friends on the western edge have been operating their centre a little longer, I spoke with Gillian LaBoucane, Economic Development Officer for the Town of Maple Creek, for some added insight.

I know the tourist information centre outside Maple Creek is a busy place in the summer, and strategically placed at the entrance near the Alberta border. Given that location, how important is it for a place like Moosomin, which is similarly situated just inside a border, to have a tourist information centre?
Very important as it will draw people into the community and region, bringing money into the community. It is definitely an economic initiative.

Do you find as the first tourist information centre coming into Saskatchewan from the west that people are interested in information regarding places throughout the province as well as locally?
Oh yes, many who stop are looking for information for outside our region and we do provide that for them. But the goal of the centre is to convert travellers off the Trans-Canada and take the scenic route through the region, whether that is convincing them to go south and follow the Red Coat Trail or travelling up north and exploring the Great Sandhills. The Southwest has a lot to offer visitors!

What kind of numbers do you see in terms of people visiting the info centre, and how does that translate to people heading into town?
Over the six years that Maple Creek has operated the centre, the daily average is around 100-150. Heading into a holiday weekend, the average may be closer to 200 in a day. How it translates to visitors in town? Well, this is not formally tracked, but in conversation with business owners. Many visitors will mention who they talked to at the centre and how they heard about them.

As a traveller, I appreciate a spot to pull over for a stretch—how essential is it for the proposed tourist info centre to have bathroom facilities, picnic tables, even a dog run as Moosomin is considering?
These are very important, bathrooms are usually the main reason for stopping, so having clean bathrooms are essential. Picnic tables and green spaces for humans and animals provides a restful stop.

The hope is that folks will also pull into town and spend some time growing the local economy. Has Maple Creek noted an economic spin off in the same regard?
There is an impact on the local business community, it has been felt since Maple Creek took over the operations in 2017. The goal of the centre is to draw people into Maple Creek and into the region, this brings new money from outside the local economy. There is a definite increase in people and on any given day during the operating season, you will see visitors in our shops, sitting throughout the downtown and taking the opportunity to explore, to shop, to eat and to experience all that we have here in the Southwest.

Moosomin is considering a historic theme to their info centre, and I know Maple Creek has done a lot of work with the downtown. Would you consider it important to have a theme?
A theme? Well, yes, Maple Creek has a Heritage District and it is promoted to all who stop and the centre features pop-up stores that give a taste of the local offerings. Overall, the theme is the region and experiences available to visitors. For instance, if you walk into the women’s bathroom you would be greeted by a deer among lodgepole pines! The bathrooms are wrapped in enlarged photos taken at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

What suggestions would you have in general, maybe some things that the Moosomin team hasn’t quite considered?
Feature your local businesses! Maple Creek offers baking from our local bakery, coffee from our local coffee roastery and shop. Give the visitors a taste of what is just minutes away!

I often hear about the tourist information centre in Maple Creek at the Cypress Hills-Grasslands Destination Area level—how important is it to align with a tourism advocate?
Cypress Hills-Grasslands Destination Area is a great entity to work with and an important partner in the initiative. This relationship has evolved over the years that Maple Creek has operated the centre but it remains a valuable stakeholder and resource.