Stan Dunford was eating at the Northway Restaurant and Truck Stop Friday morning when he heard the legal logjam involving his lands, the Burl’s Creek Event Park, was over.
The Ontario Municipal Board ruled in his favour, as it approved an Oro-Medonte temporary use bylaw that allows the grounds to be used as a festival space.
Three years ago, the Republic Live founder purchased the Burl’s Creek Event Park, 230 hectares, lands located south of Hwy. 11, north of Ridge Road East and located between Lines 7 and 9.
“The lawyer sent me an email the minute he received (the decision). It was a huge sigh of relief,” said Dunford in a one-on-one interview. “The focus on this is the benefit to Oro-Medonte as a township. That’s really only part of the story. This benefits Barrie and Orillia, the province and Canada. This type of event grounds is not available in most communities across the country and we have the opportnity through tourism to make this venue a world-class destination.”
Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes said the timing of the OMB decision couldn’t have been any better.
“It will remove the uncertainty. It’s very timely,” Hughes said of the decision that resulted from a series of hearing dates and telephone conferences that date back to early 2016.
The WayHome Music and Arts Festival kicks off July 28 and runs through to July 30; it is followed by the larger, longer-standing Boots and Hearts Music Festival, which runs from Aug. 10 to 13.
Boots and Hearts brings in some of the biggest names in country music, including Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert, Cold Creek Country and Keifer Sutherland.
The WayHome festival includes rock, hip hop, pop and R&B artists.
There will be three stages, including a semi-permanent stage, the WayBright stage, which is now under construction.
The grounds are linked with fibre optic cable to support the technology the artists demand. New grass was laid – and with this year’s plentiful rain, it’s very green and lush. The areas around the stages are graded to be shaped like bowls, so there’s no bad view.
“I’ve invested a lot of money in these grounds with the hope of bringing something to these grounds that the community could be proud about,” said Dunford.
“We have nothing in mind but to bring great events that everyone can participate in,” he told the crowds gathered Friday at a news conference held as the OK Friday market was taking place and Orillia and Barrie residents were lining up for free tickets to the WayHome Music and Arts Festival, courtesy of a local radio station.
A 2015 economic impact analysis filed with Oro-Medonte said investment in the event grounds for events in 2015 totaled “some $10 million”. In addition, the economists estimated $600,000 per year in investment to run the events and maintain the site.
In terms of tourism, the festivals attract 40,000 people each year, who stay in the area longer and spend money while they’re here on accommodation, food, recreation and entertainment and on shopping excursions. That was estimated at $23.4 million per year.
The economic impact report also noted that all levels of government share in the proceeds, which total about $2.3 million a year.
Long-time Oro-Medonte farmer Bill May called himself a “true supporter” of the venture at Burl’s Creek. He attended the OMB hearings as well as Friday’s announcement regarding the temporary use bylaw.
“It’s close to home and there’s nothing wrong with it at all. This is what (Oro-Medonte) needs,” said May, whose family has been in Oro-Medonte for 80 years.
“(Republic Live) has brought in millions. We support it. It’s a perfect place.”