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Waves of Potential for Lake Diefenbaker

Tourism group has renewed vision to improve lake area promotion

With a number of possibilities, Lake Diefenbaker seems to be overflowing with all sorts of potential these days, and the local tourism group centered on it wants to capitalize on that with a renewed vision and drive to show what the area can offer people and businesses from near and far.

On Wednesday, May 31, the Lake Diefenbaker Tourism organization (LDT) held a meet-and-greet evening in celebration of Tourism Week at the Harbor Golf Club in Elbow that featured presentations on the amenities of the lake area and featured a focus on what board members are doing to attract new business and development in order to see the lakeside region continue to grow.

The open house-style atmosphere allowed the public to speak and network with local lake-centered business owners and developers.

The event also served as a launch for LDT’s Ambassador Program, which sees volunteers represent their respective communities and share information on events, businesses and attractions with Lake Diefenbaker Tourism.  The goal of the program is for the organization to be able to answer questions and market communities by having the most current and up-to-date information from people who live in the area, and the representation from LDT will hopefully lead to more promotion and exposure for all areas surrounding the lake and the connecting region.

Michael and Anne Clancy, authors of the books “Discovering Lake Diefenbaker” and “Sask Living Skies at Night”, presented a slideshow that captured what recreational activities this part of the province offers, including little-known spots and areas in the region that typically go undiscovered.

Michael offers a different perspective on the age-old theory that the province is flat, particularly in some of the rockier terrain nestled in the Coteau Hills terrain near Beechy.

“Saskatchewan most definitely isn’t flat,” he said.  “You don’t need hiking boots; you need a Sherpa in some of these hills!”

The Lake Diefenbaker Tourism group is comprised of ten people with a number of ties to the regional area, whether it’s as business owners or growing developers.  Grace McTavish of Elbow is a business owner with Garmac Management, and she says that it’s communities like hers that thrive on promoting what the lake offers and surviving off the spring and summer tourism dollars.

“For Elbow, tourism is our survival; without it, we’d be like any other ghost town in the province,” she said.  “Every week in Elbow is ‘tourism week’.”

Christian Boyle, a marketing and communications consultant with the Whitecap Dakota First Nation did a presentation on geocaching in the area, and also touched on what the area wants to do to help the continued growth in the area.  Boyle noted that Whitecap wants to create a tour product and work with Lake Diefenbaker Tourism to offer any number of experiences, whether it’s a fishing expedition for anglers, hiking experiences, or even an equestrian program.

“We want to offer the kind of resort that brings people here because Saskatchewan is still largely considered a ‘fly-over’ province,” he said, and noted that the Chief Whitecap Waterway Trail has been getting a lot of great feedback and press promotion since it was opened in the last few years.

Rauncie Kinnaird is one of the developers hoping to see the region expand and draw more people, as her Sandy Shores Resort project has been seeing impressive growth in the Gardiner Dam area near Danielson Provincial Park.

Kinnaird says the lake area is sitting on the edge of prosperity, and that people are recognizing that it’s becoming a hot spot in terms of owning property.

“I think we’re on the cusp of some great things,” she said.  “We’re almost 40% sold out of Phase One, which I think speaks to the desire to live in this beautiful area.”

Some of the plans that LDT has in the immediate future include the aforementioned Ambassador program to help drive promotion and awareness of businesses and events in the lakeside area, as well as building a comprehensive directory of local businesses for visitors to have access to in their travels to the area.

As well, the group is pursuing a working relationship with Saskatoon Tourism, with the goal of bringing big-city events to the Lake Diefenbaker area and educating urban residents on what can be found when they take a road trip south of the city.

“We continue to face a barrier of educating city people on what we offer,” said Rauncie.  “When they think of going to the lake, they think of going up north, and we want to let them know what we have here at Diefenbaker.”

The renewed sense of pride and direction by the LDT group in promoting the lake and what the regional area can offer is also timely, as Lake Diefenbaker itself will mark 50 years in 2017.