Part of the rationale for the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund was to help generate tourism in and around Huntsville, Ont., where the summit was hosted.
A page on the Infrastructure Canada website that details where some of the $50 million was spent reads much like a tourism brochure in its descriptions of the dozen or so communities that benefited from the cash and how it was used.
Using the web page as our guide, let's take a virtual tour to see how those Canadian taxpayer dollars were put to use.
We begin our trip by flying into North Bay's Jack Garland Airport, with a nice smooth landing thanks to a resurfaced runway and taxiway system. The pilot knows where he's going because airfield lights and signage were relocated. With $3.5 million in upgrades, the airport's going to "continue its fine tradition of providing service to local, national, and international clients."
Hop in a rental car and start off on Highway 11. Wow, we're a long way away from Huntsville — 138 km to go.
After awhile we arrive in South River, Ont. Now more "beautiful and inviting" thanks to $65,000 in federal funds, it enjoys "higher community curb appeal."
Look at those pretty shrubs and planter boxes that adorn the sides of the road! Hungry? Plop yourself down at a new picnic table in the local park for a quick snack and avail yourself of the brand-new waste container for your trash.
A little farther down Highway 11 and we're welcomed by a new gateway sign to Sundridge, which is a "haven" for boaters, fishers and snowmobile enthusiasts. Let's stretch our legs and take a stroll along Main Street on its fancy new interlocking brick sidewalk.
What's that chiming sound? Oh, a new town clock is telling us it's time to get over to Lions Park for a concert at the bandshell. It got a makeover with some of the $875,000 that was dedicated to Sundridge through the fund. Enjoy some live entertainment under trees that were planted with the G8 cash to give the park some more shade.
That was a nice little break, now back in the car — we're just 45 km away from Huntsville. Need a bathroom break? Stop in Burk's Falls, a historic little town settled in the early 1900s that's "ready for the future" after some G8 Legacy Fund upgrades. There's a Heritage River Walk along the old rail line here that was spruced up with some of the $150,000 — but let's skip it this time around. Take your bathroom break at the new public washrooms that were built with the G8 cash and let's keep going.
Next destination: Kearney, a.k.a. "The Biggest Little Town." The 837 people who live here now have a more inviting downtown core that is already attracting new businesses and services, which they are counting on to bring more tourist dollars, so says our online guide.
We'll breeze through Perry, Ont., which also has a new and improved road through it to get people to their cottages more comfortably, and get to Huntsville, where almost $30 million was spent to prepare it for hosting world leaders.
Head straight for the Canada Summit Centre, formerly known as the Centennial Centre. If only we had time for a skate on the new Olympic-sized ice rink! But we have to get to the Deerhurst Resort where the actual summit took place.
Wow, it's pretty darn nice, eh? And the road that leads into it? Smooth as a baby's bottom! Our guide tells us that the resurfacing and realignment of this road is expected to contribute to the tourism sector in the community for the next 15 years!
Huntsville also got the new University of Waterloo Summit Centre but it's used for research and training and conferences, so there's not much to see. Let's go check out some of the other places near Huntsville that got G8 cash.
Let's make our way down Highway 11 to the "enticing hub" of Bracebridge, Ont. This town, a "historic, dynamic" one, has 22 waterfalls, according to our online guide. A "more beautiful, pedestrian-friendly downtown beckons," so it's off to admire the new streetlights, traffic lights, eight new crosswalks and signage. Take a rest on one of the 16 new benches in town.
More than $1 million was poured into Bracebridge, the "Heart of Muskoka." There's a brand new outdoor theatre in Annie Williams Park and it's already hosted several performances "in front of enthusiastic and appreciative audiences."
Geez, our day has already been pretty busy and we haven't even gotten to Gravenhurst yet. It has so much to offer, the guide tells us, and it got a much-needed facelift with the G8 money, including new flag poles, hanging baskets, recycling bins and bike racks that we're told will encourage more active lifestyles. But it's about 60 km away from Huntsville, and I'm already exhausted. So many beautiful, enticing places to visit, so little time.
I'm going to plan a second trip so I can check out more G8 legacy projects. I hear there's a new gazebo in Seguin and a band shell in Baysville. Even Port Severn, 131 km away, got some G8 cash. But for now, our trip ends in Bracebridge – I'm off to count the waterfalls.