Open Letter to Hastings County Planning Committee from Founder and President of Grail Springs Retreat Centre for Wellbeing

By on April 4, 2019

Bancroft, Ontario – March 19, 2019

My name is Madeleine Marentette. I am the founder and President of Grail Springs Retreat Centre for Wellbeing which lies adjacent to the Freymond/Fowler proposed quarry. We are part of a network of Bancroft and area businesses that employ hundreds of people that depend on our outstanding natural environment setting to survive.

To give you some background of our successes, we proudly celebrated our 25thyear in business this past January. Consistently winning awards including twice recognition from the House of Commons for our summer festivals promoting Canadian women in business and advocating for the environment. We also just won for the third year in a row ‘Canada’s Best Wellness Retreat’ by the prestigious World Travel Awards. Other recipients include Fairmont Hotels, Lufthansa Airlines, Disney Cruise Lines and other recognizable global brands.

We employ 40+ personnel year round (not including local maintenance companies and vendors) with over 1.2 million in payroll annually, and host over 1600 visitors from all over the world each year which is almost half the population of Bancroft.

We experience zero layoffs, including through the winter months. An example of our recent occupancy rate, attributed to our first ever Winter Spa Fest held in Feb and March – and never done by any Canadian resort:

January          89%
February        88%
March             88% to date

As we’ve been reaching almost full capacity in recent years the BDC – Business Development Corporation approved the financing of a $1 million dollar project to build an outdoor Thermal Spa Circuit. This following in the footsteps of the successful Scandinave Spa in Blue Mountain, and Nordic Nature Spa in Quebec and Alberta, and now building their third location in Whitby. Outdoor thermal spas of European influence and history is proving to be an ideal match for Canada, to host wellness travelers looking to experience and embrace our country’s beauty and recreation, and all in the dead of winter. We hired architects to design our new thermal circuit including two new artisan cabins, creating 3-4 new jobs at Grail Springs.

All expansion plans were put on hold two years ago when it was made clear to us the full intention and size of Freymond/Fowler proposed quarry operation.

Further, I represent Canada and serve on the Board of Directors for the global Wellness Tourism Association including education committee. I have attended four global summits around the world hosted by the Global Wellness Institute, supported by leading universities, professors and experts in wellness trends and tourism. Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr Oz and Dr Andrew Weil, are amongst the wellness influencers who’ve been keynotes at these summits.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness tourism industry is one of the fastest growing travel sectors and is poised to reach over $800 billion US by 2020.  As a successful Canadian business woman who has moved this sector forward in our own country, I can tell you that Bancroft, Hastings County, Ontario, and Canada as a whole – is well positioned to receive some of these tourism dollarswhile ‘over-tourism’ is coming to a crisis all over Europe and Asia, devastating oceans and water systems. Barcelona and Thailand for instance are closing down beaches and/or charging premium tourist tax on every hotel, flight and attraction to pay for damages. Tourism has been mismanaged on both ends.

Our provincial and federal governments, and Hastings County all recognize the economic opportunity of tourism to boost local economies healthily, which would otherwise suffer immense challenges without.

Tourism has saved communities. But it has to be managed correctly.

Local treasures such our forests, trails, pure spring lake waters, and places like Grail Springs can be harmed, or they can be managed correctly to ensure that people, animals and the environment thrive not just survive, or react to damage that is irreversible. This is an opportunity for citizens, advocates and visionaries to speak up and speak out with new, fresh, innovative ideas.

While at the last Global Wellness Summit they challenged entrepreneurs and all representatives from every region around the world to envision wellness valleys, wellness towns, wellness communities.Examples; Sedona, Blue Mountain, and the Wellness Valley in Puglia, Italy where I was privy to visit. Entire communities are building around the wellness culture which every single citizen can invest in and get behind – children, elders, schools, housing, families and businesses.

Imagine, Hastings, the Wellness Region of Ontario.

None of these local governments like Sedona, Blue Mountain or Puglia, would allow intrusive, natural resource extraction activities to challenge their wellness amenities.

We all understand the need to develop the region and create more jobs, however if this quarry is allowed to happen in this location, it is obvious to all rational people, that the blasting, drilling and continuous crushing that will be ongoing within 400 metres of Grail Springs, could do irreversible damage to a 25 year-old business and threaten the 40+ jobs and the families they support. How many jobs does the quarry create and how many jobs will be lost at Grail Springs?

I would like to ask the council take pause and request that an Economic Impact Study just like the one done for Caledon (submitted), is to be completed to ensure that the correct decision is made for all concerned. I thank you for listening and your consideration.

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