Kick-starting tourism
Volunteers try to bring visitors to the Deh Cho

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson ( May 12/00) - Five years after its dissolution, the Nahanni Ram Tourism Association may be making a comeback.

Kevin MacLellan said a group of volunteers and municipal leaders in the region have met and are going to be lobbying for funding.

"We've got to find a mechanism whereby the community can take a meaningful part in the development of tourism because it's going to mean so much for the long-term development of the economy here," said MacLellan, who is acting as a resource person for the group.

"Everybody is responsible for tourism."

He said initiatives like the Fort Simpson Historical Society's Heritage Park are integral to drawing tourists to the community rather than a brief stopping point on their way to Nahanni National Park Reserve.

It's hoped the GNWT will provide funding for the tourism association, but it's up to the volunteers to convince them it's a necessity, according to MacLellan.

Money is needed to bring in experts to discuss strategies and for other initiatives the group isn't ready to make public yet, he added.

In the meantime, he said Nahendeh MLA Jim Antoine is already onside.

"Jim (Antoine) is a big supporter."

The Nahanni Ram Tourism Association fell apart in the mid-1990s when, at the request of the communities, the GNWT began to turn over control of tourism.

"In doing that there were only so many dollars to go around. The local associations collapsed. There was no funding," said MacLellan, adding that essentially only the volunteer organizations remained afloat.

Tourism, forestry, and perhaps agriculture in the future are going to be the mainstays of the Deh Cho economy. Non-renewable resource development such as oil and natural gas, although promising, has a 30-40 year window, he added.

"A lot of people don't realize just how important tourism is for their local economy. It's new money coming in," he said.