An innovative two-year project is bringing together residents, operators and local government officials to create a region-wide network to design and implement a multi-year destination development strategy for the Upper Bay of Fundy, the longest stretch of wilderness coastline on the eastern seaboard.

 

The Upper Bay of Fundy Rural Regional Destination Development Project is led by a 11-member working group of local people from the private, public and non-profit sectors. 

It is funded by ACOA (75 per cent) and Tourism New Brunswick (25 per cent) and administered by the Friends of Fundy.

 

The Upper Bay of Fundy is the ecological zone defined by the northeastern half of the Bay of Fundy, stretching from the outskirts of St. Martins through to Cape Enrage, and includes the communities of Hillsborough, Riverside-Albert, Alma, Sussex and the adjacent rural areas.

 

Its primary recommendation is the creation of the Upper Bay of Fundy Destination Development Network to provide locally-sourced leadership in destination planning and management for the region, which as of January 1, 2023 will be governed by three regional service districts and three newly constituted rural communities – Fundy-St. Martins, Sussex, and Fundy Albert. 

 

In its Phase 1 research, analysis and stakeholder engagement one central issue was identified across the region: residents, operators and local government officials want greater access to information and knowledge so they can make informed decisions about living, working and investing in the Upper Bay of Fundy.

The region has the highest concentration of financial investment in tourism assets in New Brunswick, anchored by:

  • Fundy National Park (federal);

  • the Fundy Trail Parkway, Hopewell Rocks, and Cape Enrage (provincial);

  • Poley Mountain Resort (private); and,

  • the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Region and UNESCO Stonehammer Global Geopark (non-profit).


 

Each of these anchor destinations draws thousands of visitors each year, to what has been a seasonal visitor economy. This changed in 2022 thanks to five actions that cumulatively will alter the rhythm of life, work and development.

  1. The final leg of the Fundy Trail Parkway is now complete, connecting the eastern entrance (Sussex area) with the western entrance of Fundy National Park, creating a seamless and dedicated tourism route connecting St. Martins to Hillsborough.

  2. Fundy National Park became a year-round destination, welcoming winter activities such as hiking and camping in winter 2021/22.

  3. Poley Mountain Resort also became a year-round destination, with the addition of mountain biking trails, hiking, a lookout tower, and managed ATV trails for summer visitors in summer 2022.

  4. The region’s two UNESCO designated areas, the Fundy Biosphere Region and Stonehammer Geopark have formed a partnership to operate together. This will increase overall capacity, support, and collaborations. 

  5. The Government of New Brunswick announced two major changes to local governance: it created new rural communities and municipalities by merging towns, villages and local service districts; and it transferred local tourism marketing decision-making to the province’s 12 regional service districts (RSDs).

All this local activity is happening against the backdrop of global environmental change. 

 

The Phase 1 research and analysis agenda included the commissioning of six studies:

  1. Create a baseline asset inventory of the Rural Upper Bay of Fundy Region and create a digital map of the tourism assets identified. Marcel Morin (Lost Art Cartography) created visualizations using satellite-generated imagery of the Rural Upper Bay of Fundy region and the population centres of Alma, Hillsborough, Riverside-Albert, St. Martins and Sussex. 

  2. Conduct a digital footprint assessment of local tourism operators’ web presence.  This was completed by Working Group member and independent digital marketing specialist Kevin Berry.

  3. Complete an inventory and assessment of built heritage and cultural assets. This was completed by Working Group member Janet Clouston (Albert County Museum).

  4. Review and analyze regional development plans and reports from 1996 to 2022. This work was completed by lead practitioner Lisa Hrabluk. 

  5. Conduct a Community Survey of residents’ attitudes toward local tourism development. Jamie Gamble (Imprint Consulting) provided strategic advice on measurement and evaluation, including helping to design the overall process and initial survey. 

  6. Review and analyze the Upper Bay of Fundy Rural Region’s potential as a sustainable tourism destination as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The Fundy Biosphere Region conducted a high-level review of existing and potential regenerative destination development practices

In addition, the Working Group has contracted with Indigenous knowledge expert Cecelia Brooks to advise in the development of a reconciliatory approach to its work, including Phase 2 engagement, strategic planning and development.

“We love our shared home and we know, see, and believe in its value,” writes the working group in its Phase 1 report.

“We are hopeful [others] will join us in ensuring that value is nurtured and responsibly managed, so it can create sustainable shared benefits for the people who call the Upper Bay of Fundy home and those who share our desire to invest in a regenerative, prosperous future.”

This is a summary of our recently published “Upper Bay of Fundy Rural Region Destination Development Project: Baseline Research and Analysis Report,” which is available in full here: https://www.ruralfundyregiondevelopment.com/_files/ugd/ac00f3_e18bde3e97e74f2aa3f4ae05104fd14f.pdf

The shoreline in Hillsborough at dusk (photo credit: Bob Rochon)

The shoreline in Hillsborough at dusk (photo credit: Bob Rochon)

The Upper Bay of Fundy is on the Rise

Operators, residents and local government officials seek to create a regional network to inform future development of area from St. Martins to Hillsborough that has highest concentration of tourism-related investment in New Brunswick

Cover image from the Upper Bay of Fundy Phase 1 Report. To read the full document click here.

Requirements for Moving Forward

  1. Informed public consent is required to power the process: An open and transparent process that provides residents and operators with access to timely information, delivered by trusted and objected sources is required. This includes creating safe and welcoming spaces for meaningful shared conversations about the possible benefits and risks of proposals, projects and government/corporate directives.

  2. Create an independent community-led Upper Bay of Fundy Destination Development Network with a mandate to build industry, community, and government support for a region-wide development agenda by May 2023. In Phase 2 the working group will expand to create locally-led issue-specific action groups to address specific concerns and opportunities.

Summary of Phase 1 Report Findings

3. Use the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) as a guide for building regenerative destination development capacity, knowledge, and practices in the region. The UN SDGs provide an internationally accepted set of values that balance people, the planet and prosperity. The Network will focus initially on SDG #8, decent work and economic growth; SDG #12, responsible consumption and production; SDG #14, life below water; and SDG #15, life on land.

 

Phase 2 Implementation Agenda

The Working Group will work with private, public and non-profit organizations as well as residents to build out the Upper Bay of Fundy Destination Development Network via the following 10 action items.

  1. Convene and support four Action Committees related to priority areas identified Phase 1 work: 

    1. housing; 

    2. infrastructure, such as roads, trails, signage, and internet; 

    3. labour, including attraction, retention, and training; and, 

    4. regenerative approaches to product and experience development in our local regional context.

  2. Create and host a multi-day Rural Region Destination Development Learning Summit in Autumn 2022 that will:

    1. publicly launch the Network;

    2. facilitate stakeholder knowledge exchange with experts related to strengthen rural destinations to be sustainable and regenerative drivers of the regional economy and local way of life;

    3. facilitate a day of learning for new and returning local and regional government officials; and,

    4. introduce our national partners Destination Canada and the Shorefast Foundation to the network and vice versa.

  3. Map and integrate our regions existing tourism value chain.

  4. Work with our provincial and federal partners on market intelligence to inform decision making.

  5. Pursue opportunities for digitization and innovation. 

  6. Create a website to drive traffic to the region that is inclusive of the existing online presence of communities, operators and experiences.

  7. Prototype two network-initiated digital tools to support four priority areas:

    1. a regional job preparation and training platform for helping operators onboard new hires efficiently, meet NB workplace standards and support knowledge access about regional products and experiences for staff to promote to travellers; and,

    2. Driftscape, an online app being adopted by the Town of Sussex to share local stories, guide people to places of interest, events and tours, and discover local gems.

  8. Co-design organizational structure.

  9. Identify sustainable funding options.

  10. Design and implement stakeholder engagement strategy.