The development and creation of Old Post Lodge – When and Why?
In 1986, we purchased the land and buildings of an old Hudson Bay Company trading post that had fallen to ruins after it was deserted in 1963. Along with an old Church (Anglican Church of England) on Lake St. Joseph, this presented a very unique opportunity. 70 acres and a vast sand beach provided a perfect locale for the development of a tourist based business.
We knew from experience that Lake St. Joseph had phenomenal fisheries. Now all we had to do was put the right package together and find and develop our customer base.
It was somewhat of a Rubik’s Cube as all the pieces were there, it was just a matter of solving the puzzle of how to combine the Hudson Bay Company history and a tourist based business into a successful enterprise.
The Hudson Bay Company is the foundation of our Canadian history from the days of the great explorers and adventurers through the fur trade. Remember, this was all prior to Confederation (1867). Our site was one of the first inland trading posts ever established and was opened July 16, 1786. It was under development for five or six years prior to that and was used as a fur trading location or meeting place since the early 1730s. Taking that historical significance we needed to couple it with the extensive history and culture of the local native people. Mishkeegogamang First Nation people now inhabit the surrounding area and have established a community of nearly 800 people. It is believed that in the early 1700s the Black Foot Cree were the dominant native people in the area but soon were taken over by the Oji Cree who since have changed their name to Mishkeegogamang First Nation. Yes we have taken advantage of the local surroundings but this need not be mistaken for the exploitation of the local people and their culture. We have been very guarded in an attempt to make sure that this will never happen and that we pay the utmost respect and not exploit this opportunity that we’ve been given.
Standing back and looking at all that history and culture my imagination went into overdrive. We had to take the unique opportunity that was given to us and somehow blend all facets; quality fisheries, location, history, culture, and sound business practices. Old Post Lodge was born and opened June 1, 1987. From the very beginning I recognized that this had to be a direct, customer oriented and focused industry. Our growth depends on service; our existence depends on the quality and the sustainability of our fisheries. We have been a very strong advocate and leader in fisheries conservation and management of this renewable resource. Catch and release practices, releasing all trophy fish, were implemented in the second year of operation and the use of no nets and barbless hooks in subsequent years. These direct conservation policies were on the leading edge at the time and were not implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources until the late 90s.
Lake St. Joseph supports a very high quality sport fisheries along with very limited commercial fish harvested to the local native community. In 1989, a unique regulation established an accord between the Ministry of Natural Resources and tourist operators on the lake. Lake St. Joseph is now under the mandate of this Lake St. Joseph Accord. In order to assist the MNR with fisheries management, an advisory committee consisting of local native band members, tourism representatives and Lake St. Joseph camp operators were established. A tag system was put into effect in order to control the number of guests that may be accommodated on the lake. Through its allotment, this tag system allows 1786 fishermen annually. Old Post Lodge owns a quota of 756 tags. It is a strong marketing tool where exclusivity and a controlled environment can be promoted. This along with the fact that there is no opportunity for further development on the lake or utilization by day trippers or campers ensures that high quality fisheries is sustained indefinitely. When you also consider that Lake St. Joseph is 154,000 acres, 91 miles long and 20 miles wide in certain areas, it’s not difficult to see the tremendous opportunity for a long-term, stable future for any fishing camp located on it.
Old Post Lodge has matured over the years primarily through our customers, their changing needs, their ideas and their patronage. The future? We continue to achieve our goals as we strive for excellence.
Wendy and I were married in 1982 and started dreaming and investigating in late 1985. We purchased the property in July 1986 and opened for business in 1987, almost 20 years ago. Our three children have spent their entire childhoods living the same dream of growing up in a family owned and operated business. On the shores of Lake St. Joe, not a bad place to raise three very active boys.
We continue to enjoy the camp, its growth, all of its customers, new and returning, year after year and have no desire whatsoever but to continue to enjoy the surroundings, the lifestyle and the sheer creativity it provides.
The philosophy of Old Post Lodge is based on a dedication to fisheries conservation and commitment to providing excellent customer service.