South Algonquin Business Alliance Feb. 2022 updates

The South Algonquin Business Alliance sent out their bulletin to update its members on new developments with the organization on Feb. 22. Angela Pollak, the chair with SABA, told members in the bulletin that while it had been a quiet winter in terms of updates, steady progress was being made on the organization’s objectives. Pollak comments on the updates she provided to their membership.

Pollak sent out the SABA newsletter on Feb. 22 updating the business alliance’s members on what they were up to.

“We’ve been hard at work getting some of the projects we started last year across the finish line. So, I’m just reaching out today with a few updates to the community,” she said in the newsletter.

The first item she told the members about was SABA’s annual general meeting, which occurred on Feb. 23 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. via Google Meets.

They talked about three types of local tourism that SABA would be focusing on this year; trail tourism, night sky/Astro tourism and contemplative tourism (forest bathing).

“Cindy Cassidy from Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance sent a slide deck explaining the role, governance, and funding of the EOTA that helped us understand the scope of the work they do and the impacts on employment across eastern Ontario. Erin Morlock of Hay Lake Lodge and Dr. Kari Krogh of Ecowisdom Forest Preserve spoke about forest bathing and mindful nature experiences. Then we had a really nice discussion of how all three pieces fit together and the opportunities for businesses to participate in and profit from this framework,” she says.

Pollak says that EOTA has committed to being an active South Algonquin trail partner for a long time to come, and that they have projects in the pipeline to upgrade and maintain many more kilometres of trails.

“We are asking that anyone who wishes to contribute to the maintenance and upgrade of the trails in South Algonquin to support EOTA through the purchase of a trail pass. We are also looking for volunteers to help us create a network of trail stewards to help care for and maintain the trails going forward,” she says.

Next up, Pollak talked about a ribbon cutting on June 17 at 11 a.m. (location TBD) on the local trail improvements being made. The portion of these trail upgrades from Whitney to Aylen Lake along the Old Rail Trail having been completed, and she says they’ve seen snowmobiler volume increase this year along these routes. She says additional upgrades are planned including a parking lot at the trailhead of the Spectacle Lake/Bear Mountain system, and trail improvements along the trail 175 south to Bancroft. She thanked the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario and EOTA for their financial support and confidence for SABA to get this work completed.

“We are excited to be hosting the township’s first ever Digital Content Creator Camp on the weekend of June 16 to 18. June 17 will be a full day of activities; starting with a pancake breakfast, the grand re-opening of the Old Rail Trail at 11 a.m., a community wide open house and an evening barbecue and campfire. In exchange for a complimentary three day, two night stay, these content creators will create social media posts about their experiences to share widely with their audiences. The hope is that this will kickstart SABA’s social media following,” she says.

Pollak next updated SABA’s members on the third issue of its One Fine Day zine. She said that SABA’s Loretta Neil will be starting to ask for contributions to the zine for the 2023 edition soon.

“If you have a personal or business story you’d like to share with the community, please reach out or respond to her requests. We’re planning to increase the size of the zine by eight pages this year, so we’ve got more space for community content. Personal pages are $10 each and business rates will start at $150. New this year, you’ll be able to advertise on our SABA website,” she says.

The setup of SABA’s social media machine was next on the update list. Pollack said they were in the final stages of setting it up, thanks to funding from Community Futures and Explorer’s Edge Partnership funding.

“We’ve been hard at work creating the accounts and planning out the strategy, which will focus on our three pillars; trail, dark sky and mindful nature tourism. We have the initial posts ready to start for March and April. We also have a couple of Canada Summer Jobs positions we’re waiting to hear back about. If funded, we will have a dedicated social media person from May to August who will continue to work through the summer and winter. We’re hoping by the end of the season to have a couple of thousand followers. Anyone who would like to see what we’re doing can like, share, and follow us on Facebook,, or on Instagram at south_algonquin.

Grant work continues, according to Pollak, and as of Feb. 22, SABA has been able to help local businesses access $1,000,000 in funding for local improvements that resulted in cash investment in South Algonquin of more than $1.3 million.

“We have an additional $450,000 in requests that are still in the evaluation phase and we’ve all got our fingers crossed that these come through with positive results,” she says.

Pollak reveals that SABA will continue to offer grant writing support in 2023, but they would need to begin charging for it due to the time involved in doing these. They’re asking participating businesses who compete successfully for a grant to make a donation to SABA to help keep the service going and lighten their fundraising burden. As of March 1, Pollack said they’d heard nothing yet on the grants.

“I think for one of the grants, SABA will be deemed ineligible, but it was worth a try anyway. If funded, the other grants will cover more bathroom and trail upgrades for local businesses,” she says.

Finally, Pollack talked about the SABA board and how they are always seeking out new volunteers. At their last meetings in December and January, they decided to move to a three year cycle for the executive to provide stability and lessen the recruiting burden. For 2023 to 2026, the new chair is Pollak, the secretary is Gabriella Hairabedian and the treasurer will be Deb Alexander.

“It’s a very hopeful time to be chair of the South Algonquin Business Alliance. I feel like the hours of difficult work we’ve put in over the last five years will start to pay dividends over this next term,” she says.

Pollack pointed out that that SABA has not had a lot of turnover and that they recognize the need to get fresh contributions and volunteers willing to assume leadership positions going forward. She invited all interested parties to come out to a meeting and see if it is a good fit for all concerned.

“We are receiving more interest from community members to participate, which I think is partly attributable to the work we’ve doing and the enthusiasm we have been able to generate. I think it’s also due in part to some new investment in local businesses as retirements happen and businesses change hands,” she says. “New owners and operators are looking forward enthusiastically to future possibilities.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times