Project Name:  Soft Outdoor Destinations and Experiences – Canadian Heritage Grand River 


The Grand River was designated as one of 17 Canadian Heritage Rivers in 1994. Its major tributaries, the Nith, Conestogo, Speed and Eramosa Rivers extend throughout RTO4. The heritage river designation was based on the many outstanding heritage features and values and the excellence of recreational opportunities related to the rivers found in the watershed.

The river runs through RTO1, 3, and 4 and these three, along with municipal and county representatives, and former members of the voluntary marketing coalition Grand River Country, have come together in a joint development project to evaluate use and awareness, and seed the process of restoring this national icon to its appropriate status and use.

The group coalesced around an RTO-led project that will involve public and private partnerships and funding in an ongoing, multiyear, multimillion-dollar reinvestment to develop access points, signage and facilities and generally improve the market readiness of this important provincial asset. RTOs 1, 4 and 3 made a formal presentation to the MTC&S TDF fund in late 2014.

During 2015/2016 the project created the Grand River Access Point Standards Manual and Pilot Design Plans for access point development and signage for the entire river. It was a starting point for the much larger initiative of engaging public and private interest groups and individuals under an “adopt a highway” model of asset stewardship.

2016 has focused on building the local community network in and around Elora Fergus to successfully develop Wilsons’ Flats as the pilot site, in time for a grand opening on July 1st, 2017. A comprehensive communications strategy, including the building process up to grand opening and the use of the site afterwards, is integral to documenting the success of the project and encouraging the development of other access points.

Based on learnings from Wilson’s Flats, the development of two additional access points will be initiated in 2017. Meetings with stakeholders at potential sites have already begun. There is significant interest and political will in downtown Galt that could be harnessed to highlight the appeal of an attractive, well-serviced access point within an urban centre. Galt already has river development plans in place and is eager to work with RTO4 on an access point.

Waterloo Regional Tourism Marketing Corporation in their 2016/17 strategic plan identified the Grand River as a key asset and has committed to working with RTO4 on the development of two sites in Waterloo Region.

Initial investigation has also occurred in Kitchener where a service group subscribes to the value of the Standards Guide and is financially prepared to invest in the health of the Grand River.

Link to view the Access Standards Manual:

2017/2018 Objectives

OBJECTIVE #1 – Completion of Wilson Flats access point to standards.

OBJECTIVE #2 – Initiate development of 2nd and 3rd access points.

OBJECTIVE #3 – Development of a communications strategy.

Key Activities

  • Finish development of pilot site (Wilson Flats) to guide standards.
  • Work with partners to host and celebrate the grand opening.
  • Initiate development of up to two additional access points.
  • Develop and implement a communications strategy, including the capture of stories, photos and videos to share pilot site development.

 For more details on this project, please visit the 2017 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 39-41 (PDF 1.4MB).