Description of the host area

The Parc Safari is located in the county of Jardins-de-Napierville. This county is included in the vast region south of Montreal and is bordered on the south by the US border. The Municipalite Regionale de Comte (MRC) has 27,000 inhabitants spread over 800 km2 and 11 municipalities. The park is located precisely in the municipality of Hemmingford, representing 6.6% of the demographic weight of the MRC with 1800 inhabitants. The MRC territory is crossed by the north-south Highway 15 between Montreal and US Highway 87.

Agriculture is the dominant activity of this county, with 98% of the area under agricultural use. Moreover, agriculture annually generates revenues of CAD$297 million, including market gardening and fruit production (MRC Jardins-de-Napierville, 2014b). While agricultural production in the county is intense, with 59% of agricultural land under cultivation, the canton of Hemmingford, where the park is located, is the area where agricultural intensity is lowest, with only 28% of agricultural land cultured. In Quebec, all of these lands are subject to the law on the protection of agricultural land and agricultural activities (Quebec, 1978). This law prohibits the use of land for purposes other than agriculture. All other forms of land use in agricultural areas must be approved by the Commission de Protection du Territoire Agricole du Quebec (CPTAQ).

The development plan of the County Jardins-de-Napierville recognizes recreational tourism uses in the agricultural zone (MRC Jardins- de-Napierville, 2014a). This intensive recreation assignment includes golf courses, campgrounds, a regional park, shooting ranges and the Parc Safari. These non-agricultural uses are allowed through acquired rights; it was the custom prior to the existing law on the protection of the agricultural land to gain permission through a decision by the CPTAQ. The Parc Safari is in the first category, which is not without consequences for its development.

With 300,000 visitors per year, the Parc Safari is the most visited tourist attraction in the Monteregie region, which includes the entire southern shore of Montreal. However, its development and expansion are slowed by the agricultural use of the surrounding areas. Indeed, the protection of agricultural land prevents the development of complementary attractions and tourist accommodations. The development plan textually mentions, in its policies on agriculture, the need to restrict non-agricultural uses in the agricultural zone. The plan allows only the intensive recreational uses currently active but targets the promotion of agritourism and rural tourism as a diversification avenue for farmers. Indeed, the county already has a significant agritourism offer, mainly in vineyards, and a cider house open for visits and tasting - but these are the least visited agritourism attractions (Canada Economic Development, 2006). Also, nine of the 17 agritourism facility members of Circuit du Paysan or Tourisme Monteregie are located directly in the Township of Hemmingford, where Parc Safari is located. The development plan clearly states that the types of accommodation allowed in the agricultural zone are houses and inns and tourist homes that have a maximum of five bedrooms and cannot have more than one employee other than the owners (MRC Jardins-de-Napierville, 2014a, p. 273). As for agroforestry areas in the south of the county, rural tourism activities may be authorized and should preferably be within the existing rural tourism areas. Lodging and activities are limited to two per municipality; additional accommodations need to be studied by the county before being approved. However, as discussed in the next section, these two forms of tourism call for a divergent symbolic universe and tourism practices.

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