The Leaskdale Loop: A Shining Example of Multi-Stakeholder Route Development Success

For over a decade now, we at Central Counties Tourism have been working hard with our ear to the ground to determine what you, our stakeholders, want and need to thrive in tourism. We have seen plenty of strategies turn from mere ideas into popular and established experiences, and have been right there, in step with you, to help in every way we can. That being said, these successes are not ours—they are yours. They are the result of your hard work, your vision and your creativity. We have been privileged to assist in your successes by contributing our collection of industry expertise, our network of contacts, and our opportunities for support. Together, we have created something pretty special: a local tourism economy driven by stakeholders from the ground up that people actually want to come and experience.

One of the increasingly popular trends we’ve been watching for many years now is multi-stakeholder route development. We know that visitors want to come. They’ve told us—through surveys, through provincially and federally collected data, and through social media activity, for example. By developing routes that eager visitors can travel, with things to do and places to see identified and mapped out, you’re turning that desire to come into a ready-made action plan. Our region of York, Durham and Headwaters is perfect for route development. We are eclectic, with something to suit every preference. Whether it’s rural life, independent makers, artists and artisans, cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, culinary excellence, local shopping and small historic towns, or nature conservation at its finest (to name just a few options), the possibilities for unique and exciting routes are endless.

Here in Central Counties, we are proud to have some of the earliest adopters of multi-stakeholder route development; a handful of which go back nearly to the beginning of CCT as an organization! And they’re still going strong after all this time. We would like to introduce you to one of these routes, to show you what independent businesses can do when they work together to create something really special.

The Leaskdale Loop

With only around five hundred residents, we’ll forgive you for thinking that the community of Leaskdale in Durham Region couldn’t possibly have much to offer visitors. But make no mistake: You would be very wrong in that assumption. This community is bursting at the seams with talented, spirited, energetic and passionate business owners who want to share everything that Leaskdale is at its core. The idea of the Leaskdale Loop started in 2018, when a few neighbouring independent businesses sought to help each other out by encouraging people to come, and offering them ideas for what to do, see and experience when they arrived. It officially launched in 2021.

Patricia Cherrie of Greenmantle Pottery is one of the originating businesses of the Leaskdale Loop. She says, “The Leaskdale Loop is a self-drive day trip less than an hour from the GTA. We’ve got about a dozen unique places to visit—everything from cider and syrup, to food and markets, to artisans and historical attractions. It’s really eclectic.” The neat thing about the Leaskdale Loop is that it is literally a loop. All stops are only about a ten minute drive from one another, and you can pick and choose on the Leaskdale Loop map which places you want to stop at, since everyone likes something a little different.

This 2024 spring/summer season, which runs the second Saturday of every month from May 11th to October 12th, includes:

And Leaskdale Loop Days will return for the holiday season with an Artisan Christmas Market Crawl November 16-17 and December 7-8, 2024. 

It may seem like a simple concept, working together to promote one another so that people will come and visit. But for anyone who has ever attempted such a thing, the process is far more involved. For starters, you have independent businesses with independent ideas and needs that have to work together, and who need to form and deliver a self-driven mandate and plan of action. Once you have that figured out, there’s the question of what to do next. Who do you promote to? How do you promote? Who does what? And where is the funding going to come from to pay for it all? … More on this last point later, so keep reading!

For members of the Leaskdale Loop, each one brings a different skillset to the table, and has a role to play in the Loop’s success. “The people involved in the loop, without exception, are entrepreneurs,” Patricia says. “They are smart, they are creative, and they make money go very far. I’m always amazed how much we can do with so little. But that’s probably because we each have something different to offer. Between our core committee group, we cover off public relations, media relations, advertising, social media—all that stuff. It’s really nice that we happen to compliment one another.”

Strategies for Success

One of the important points about the Leaskdale Loop that we would like to highlight is that it has been a grassroots effort. Going into its fourth year, not only have the businesses collectively brought in people to the region, thus increasing sales, but they’ve developed relationships and fostered community engagement. When the Leaskdale Loop began, the businesses and individuals involved didn’t know each other as well as they do now, but by working together, they’re putting Leaskdale on the map. “This wouldn’t have worked if it were top down, with someone telling us what we have to do,” Patricia insists. “You have to remember that these people are entrepreneurs. Everyone is running their own business, and that has to be their first priority. This is their livelihood, after all. Whatever we do with the Leaskdale Loop, it has to compliment that, it has to help build that.”

Where Central Counties, and indeed other organizations like Durham Tourism and Uxbridge Tourism, have been able to assist is through access to information, expertise, funding and other programs. “The staff at CCT recognize that grassroots is effective, and they have been great,” Patricia says. “Lisa John-Mackenzie [Industry Relations Manager for Durham Region] is terrific because she’s got such great heart and commitment with the community.” Yet we at Central Counties recognize that the Leaskdale Loop belongs to its members. Both sides respect that CCT is not here to run the initiative on Loop members’ behalf and, quite frankly, Loop members don’t want that from us. “It’s not a case of, ‘Well, CCT says we need to do A, B, C and D,’” Patricia says. “That wouldn’t work well with entrepreneurs. For the people in the Leaskdale Loop, this is an add-on to their business. Entrepreneurs will give you the elbow if you try to dictate what they should do with their business. We’ve never had any whiff of that with CCT.”

Through collaboration, idea sharing and program assistance, the Leaskdale Loop has continued to grow stronger year after year. The Loop has hosted different types of events and implemented different strategies, learning from each one what works and what might be better suited to another type of initiative. And Central Counties has been able to assist by providing access to offerings like our industry expertise, our social media channels, our co-op advertising programs and our partnership program. “There are things that we know we have the opportunity to grow on,” Patricia says. “For example, this year marks Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 150th birthday, and we think there is huge potential to tie that into our Loop Days. This spring, Pefferlaw Creek Farms was drawing 500 visitors a weekend to its Maple Syrup Festival. So right now, we’re talking to Lisa John-Mackenzie to see how we might be able tie that in as well. It’s a win-win for everyone. We get help, maybe we get a little funding, we get insight and ideas and a chance to brainstorm. And there are other avenues of support—for example, Jessica Elliott [Central Counties’ Marketing Manager] came up and interviewed several of our businesses on the Loop, and did a lunch and learn at our place for social media. That kind of stuff is really helpful.”

Route Development Opportunities with Central Counties

Because we’ve seen such successes with our early adopters of multi-stakeholder route development in York, Durham and Headwaters, we want to spread the word to other energetic individuals, entrepreneurs, organizations and municipalities who would benefit from developing routes. That is why we are working towards developing a module for our popular Learning Lab. This module will be in the form of a toolkit to help you understand what route development is, and how to get started.

Also new this year is that multi-stakeholder route development is one of the three priority streams of our in-demand Partnership Program. If you have plans to develop a route in your community, consider applying to our second intake by September 13th, 2024 with a detailed strategy, budget and action plan, and you may receive match funding up to a maximum of $20,000. Please ensure you contact your region’s Industry Relations Manager before applying for Partnership funding—this is a mandatory first step.

At Central Counties Tourism, we’re working as hard for you as you’re working for your business. Let’s keep working together so that we can all enjoy the success. As Patricia Cherrie from the Leaskdale Loop sums it up: “I would encourage other collectives like ours to reach out to CCT, and to organizations like Durham Tourism and Uxbridge Tourism, because they want to help. Reach out, pick their brains, get some input, get some reassurance, maybe get a little bit of funding, and we’ll all end up helping each other.”

For more information, or to get started with your own multi-stakeholder route development initiative, reach out to your Central Counties Industry Relations Manager today, or visit us online at

Sara Sterling
Industry Relations Manager, York Region

Lisa John-Mackenzie
Industry Relations Manager, Durham Region

Sarah Gratta
Industry Relations Manager, Headwaters Region

Story by Katherine Ryalen

Katherine Ryalen is a freelance writer and author based in Durham Region, Ontario. Find her online at


Central Counties is located North of Toronto


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