Gull Lake Moving Forward
Last year the Town Council set out to look for ways to market and promote the community to help keep our community sustainable. It has been a big project, and we still have a ways to go, but we are seeing results. Several key areas were identified as needing to be developed or improved in order to accomplish our goal.
In order to move forward with the project Council expanded some of its committees to allow for resident involvement. Community participation and support are necessary to help us in our quest to promote our community. To date we have members from the community on nearly every committee.
Councils First task was to meet with local businesses, and listen to their needs and concerns. To date we have met with almost all of our downtown businesses asking questions, and collecting information that we will share later this fall. A great deal has been learned from the meetings with the downtown businesses, and Council has taken some steps to address some of their concerns. We will also be conducting meetings with our commercial/light industrial businesses later this fall to ask questions, and listen to the challenges they face. The goal of theses meeting is to ensure the needs of the business community are being met. In order for a community to be healthy it needs to have a healthy business climate.
Council identified the need to do more to promote events, and activities happening in Gull Lake to neighboring communities in our trading region. An Event Planning Committee was struck to develop an annual event that will bring people to Gull Lake from our neighboring communities. The committee decided to start small and then grow the event year over year. The event was held on Family Day, and is called, “Winterfest”. The Winterfest Event was great and plans are in the works to make it bigger and better next year. The Tourism Committee held Christmas Cove Light display in the campground for the first time and people from all over came to see the display. This summer the Tourism Committee also established Gull Lakes first ever Community Market in the downtown to help bring more people to the downtown. This summer On August 9/13 Sunbridge and Enbridge will be sponsoring the first ever Sunbridge Community Picnic in conjunction with the annual Movie in the Park. The event will give people the chance to tour a wind turbine, enjoy a family picnic, and watch a movie in our Little Green on the Prairie Park.
Vacant property in the downtown is another area that needs to be addresses to help improve the look, feel, and health of our downtown. To that end Council has had some discussions with owners of vacant property in an effort to help them find a use for their property. One property of significant interest to the Town is the old Shoe Shop that has sat vacant since 1978. Discussions with the owners of the property have been very positive, and a major announcement will be forthcoming in the next few weeks regarding the future of this building.
The Town was approached last year by the Cypress Hills Destination Area Board, and asked to join. The goal of the CHDA is to help foster, and promote tourism in the Southwest Saskatchewan, and it has partnered with Tourism Saskatchewan to accomplish this. Each year thousands of travelers pass by Gull Lake while traveling to other destinations. Some of these tourists stop at our campground, motel, gas stations, restaurants and other businesses. Tourism is alive in the communities of Southwest Saskatchewan, and more needs to be done to foster and promote Tourism in the Southwest, and the CHDA is committed to doing just that.
One of the best and most popular attractions Gull Lake has that draw people from all over South West Saskatchewan is our Theater. The Gull Lake Lyceum Theater is the pride of our community, and is the one thing that brings people from out of town to Gull Lake on a regular basis. When the Theater received major upgrades last summer Council wasted no time in partnering with the Theater Board to help promote the theater with a radio contest. The contest combined with the outstanding coverage of the upgrades done by the Gull Lake Advance helped to give our theater some well deserved publicity. Today our theater is seeing a significant increase in the number of people from neighboring communities attending shows.
In order for the Town to grow and thrive it needs to explore opportunities with our neighboring Rural Municipality. To that end the Town has met with the RM of Gull Lake and has identified a number of mutual interests that we can work on together to help promote both the town and RM as a region. So far both the Town and RM have been working together with the Department of Highways to establish a heavy truck bypass. Also, the need to establish a commercial/light industrial corridor is being explored to allow for future business to locate to the area.
One barrier to future growth identified was a lack of motel accommodations. In the past few years interest has been expressed by at least two motels in locating to Gull Lake. To that end council is making preparations to do what it can to attract a second motel to Gull Lake by gathering information that can be used to help attract a motel to town. Once a package of information has been put together Council will be better prepared for the next opportunity that comes along.
Gull Lake needed to be on the map quite literally. Many GPS and cell phones use Google maps to help locate and identify businesses, and areas such as parks and recreation facilities in communities. Up until recently Gull Lake had very few businesses or landmarks on the streets in Google Maps. Together with the help of local businesses we have populated many of the businesses, and areas of interest the town has on Google Maps.
Getting the good news out about Gull Lake out beyond the borders of the town to the rest of the world was another job. The Gull Lake Advance has always had a great Face Book page, and done an outstanding job getting the good news stories out in the local paper. Earlier this year they launched their official website helping get the good news stories about Gull Lake out to the world. The Town also did its part also by giving its webpage a major facelift by increasing, and improving content to make our web page more informative. A Blog was also added to the site that posts news stories about the articles of interest to the Town. To date the town website has had close to 15,000 hits since it was created an average of 5,000 hits a month a significant increase in traffic over the old site. We have even attracted the attention of the Fine Lifestyles Southwest Sask Magazine who recently wrote a feature article on the town.
While much has been accomplished there is still a great deal of work to do. By working together we can continues to make Gull Lake the great place it is to live, work and raise a family.