Parry Sound, Ontario
A True Gem of Northern Ontario
With ripe economic initiatives on the city agenda, Parry Sound is putting its residents first
Located on the shores of beautiful Georgian Bay, the Town of Parry Sound is a charming community where progress and history are equally celebrated, and opportunity is around every corner. Although the town is home to a population of 7,000 residents, the community services 19,000 people who live in the broader area, making it the urban hub for the region.
CAO Clayton Harris says, “ Parry Sound is a great community and we are proud to be home to the many businesses, social and education services that support the surrounding communities of West Parry Sound. Recently we have seen a renewed interest in investing and developing in the town which will further enhance what the town has to offer.
Parry Sound’s cultural vibrancy is reflected in its diverse events and celebrations. One such example is The Festival of the Sound, a classical music festival which has become an international success, drawing music enthusiasts from around the globe.
“For the past 45 years the Festival of the Sound has been a major economic driver in the town of Parry Sound,” boasts Mayor Jamie McGarvey. “It inspired the building of our Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, which brings in other artistic talent through the rest of the year.”
The Bobby Orr Hall of Fame is another major draw to the town, bringing hockey fans from far and wide to immerse themselves in the memorabilia on display. “It’s the hall’s 20th anniversary this year, and we revamped the exhibit, which was made possible through a significant investment from the province and the town,” Harris remarks. “We wanted to reinvent it and keep it relevant. We included First Nations components. We reached out for and received their input as well as financial support.”
Harris talks about the annual Friendship Picnic, in partnership with the First Nations Community, which provides an opportunity to bring people together. He relays, “It’s town staff, members of council, Wasauksing First Nation staff, and their council. We get together annually to celebrate and work together on many projects. It goes a long way to building relationships with our neighbours; we want to work closely together. There are a number of First Nations communities in close proximity to the town and that is somewhat unique to this area.”
Each December for the past 15 years, the Holiday Train, sponsored by CP Rail, makes a stop in Parry Sound, decorated with festive decorations, and bringing seasonal entertainment.
Mayor McGarvey describes, “It stops first on the trestle bridge which goes over the Seguin River. It’s a very dramatic trestle because of its height and span. People can see it for miles around. We will have anywhere from 500 to 1000 people gathered there at one time just to catch the entertainment.” He underscores the significance of this event in supporting Harvest Share, the local food bank, through the collection of food and financial donations.
“They receive hundreds of pounds of donated food just before Christmas, and CP will also donate a cheque to Harvest Share, to support their Christmas food drive. We’ve got a caring and giving community that loves to give back to support those that are in need. That’s one of the unique aspects of our community and the surrounding area – how giving they are.”
Parry Sound’s picturesque waterfront is a key attraction, with the town’s wharf welcoming numerous cruise ships, ranking it as the fourth most visited Ontario port on the Great Lakes.
“We might be number four on the list. But I think for the cruise passengers, we are number one. They love the area,” McGarvey quips. Harris further emphasizes the value to the community, remarking, “We’re working with the federal government who we lease the wharf from, to do upgrades so that it can continue to be an important part of the waterfront and create economic development spin-offs.”
In addition, the waterfront serves as a hub for community gatherings and events. Festivals and a weekly market featuring craft and food vendors contribute to the area’s vibrancy, drawing visitors and tourists to experience the scenic beauty and lively atmosphere of Parry Sound.
McGarvey points out that Parry Sound’s location on Georgian Bay provides access to anywhere in the world by boat, which played a crucial role in the town’s development centuries ago.
Sharing that the community is known as the jewel of the 30,000 Islands, he remarks, “We’re a doorway to the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. We are in a UNESCO biosphere, and one of the unique things that the Georgian Bay Biosphere has done is identify some unique places on the Bay and the surrounding area, where they organize guided tours so that people can better understand and appreciate the environment and the Indigenous history of the area, which is significant.”
With many people taking up seasonal residence on the islands in Georgian Bay, he says that barging companies such as Chantler Barging, and North Shore Barge are a valued source of support in the area, acting as water taxis and delivering goods and services to homes and cottages.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND GROWTH
McGarvey highlights Parry Sound’s growth, suggesting that the current population surpasses the official count of 7,000, and that more expansion is imminent. “We’ve had several condominiums built in the past few years. Proposed development projects include the waterfront as well as infill within the town. We are development ready. Everything is ready to go. We are working with the provincial government to get an extra kickstart to allow key projects to proceed.”
As part of being development ready, the town completed capacity studies for both water and wastewater, and identified the growth-related infrastructure projects to support additional housing in the town.
“We have undertaken the engineering and design work to support those key infrastructure projects. The province is asking us to do all this, but it would be great if they could put some money on the table too, to help move those infrastructure projects along. We certainly support more growth, and we’re working to achieve that goal.”
Harris details a project to build a $32 million recreational complex in Parry Sound, and another investment of $200 million on a private development in the harbour. This project will be accomplished over the next several years, with phase one bringing a Marriott Hotel. With the community becoming a hotspot for conferences, this new hotel will be a welcome addition. “We see the hotel as part of the overall growth of the service industry,” says McGarvey.
“We just had a new Best Western Plus built, and it is in demand. One of the other hotel operators that runs an excellent hotel said he was worried that it might affect his business, but it only seemed to grow, because there was more opportunity for even more conferences, and people coming to the area. The addition of a new Marriott Hotel, on the waterfront, will attract more interest in investing in the conference and resort sector here in Parry Sound.”
A new mega school is also underway, which will encompass grades JK to 12, and a French language school recently opened in the community. “A lot is going on,” Harris admits.
He mentions that the Town has been working with the province to declare the Ministry of Natural Resources property at 7 Bay Street surplus with the objective of relocating their operations, opening up waterfront lands for diverse development
As the community continues to grow, strong partnerships with local construction companies, including Weeks Construction, Halls Construction, Fowler, and Adams Brothers, play a pivotal role in building and maintaining infrastructure in Parry Sound. “The bedrock of the people we rely on is the local construction companies, not contractors in terms of trades, but construction companies that can either put in, repair or replace water mains, sewers, roads,” Harris asserts.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND GLOBAL PRESENCE:
Parry Sound’s economic landscape is diverse, with successful ventures like Legends Distillery, Trestle Brewing Company, and Connor Industries, manufacturers of aluminum boats with a global presence, making a major impact.
McGarvey suggests the last few years have brought a new vibrancy to the downtown, with ventures such as Outwith Wine, a wine bar and bottle shop, Dent Bay Bakery, the Wing House – a popular restaurant featuring 150 different flavours, and a wide selection of unique shops and boutiques drawing people to the heart of the community. Tailwinds and Boston Pizza opened in the last few years on the waterfront, and the popular Henry’s Fish Restaurant, formerly in southern Georgian Bay is relocating to the harbour. These, along with the establishment of additional fast food enterprises offer many food options. “People like food, we all have to eat. So, the more opportunity people have for varieties of different food, I think the better it is,” McGarvey maintains.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
As Parry Sound celebrates its unique identity, the community looks toward the future with optimism, exemplifying a harmonious blend of history, culture, and economic vitality. With its stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural offerings, and supportive community initiatives, Parry Sound stands as a shining example of the enduring spirit of small-town Ontario.
AT A GLANCE
Parry Sound, Ontario
What: A unique community with growth and development opportunities on the horizon
Where: Northern Ontario, Canada
CS&P Architects – www.csparch.com
As one of Canada’s leading design practices, CS&P offers architectural design services to a diverse range of clientele. Since the firm’s establishment in 1962, CS&P has focused on creating sustainable and engaging projects, actively shaping spaces and buildings that bring joy to the communities they serve.
Tatham Engineering – www.tathameng.com
Tatham Engineering has been providing civil engineering services for 35 years. The employee-owned consulting firm specializes in Coastal, Land Development, Municipal Infrastructure, Structural, Transportation, Water Resources, Water & Wastewater, Electrical and Mechanical engineering, and provides specialized services in Air & Noise, Climate Resilience and Hydrogeology. Tatham has nearly 200 staff across offices in Collingwood, Bracebridge, Orillia, Barrie, and Ottawa.