December 8, 2021
What does running a park have in common with an iceberg? There’s a whole lot more to it than meets the eye.
Just ask Lisa Tesar and Lona Collins who run Bottom Line Events Planning in Yellowknife. They are the dynamic duo that operates the Fred Henne Campground every summer.
Lisa and Lona are this year’s recipients of the 2021 Hospitality Award for outstanding hospitality in an NWT Park.
From Left: Heidi Kane, Manager Parks, North Slave Region; Minister Caroline Wawzonek, Lisa Tesar and Lona Collins
Is there a secret formula to keeping a park humming successfully?
The duo says its success is all about teamwork. In addition to ITI and NWT Parks personnel, they credit their own staff – many of whom have been with them from the beginning; and return every summer to be part of the crew.
Traditional Knowledge Keepers and Storytellers are also an integral part of the Fred Henne team - sharing their culture through workshops, gatherings and interpretive programs – and contributing to the experience and enjoyment of visitors and residents alike.
“Expect the unexpected,” Lisa and Lona say... “And keep your sense of humour.”
With thousands of visitors a day, from campers to beach goers to boaters and picnics, the Fred Henne Park is its own vibrant little community.
“It’s a place where people come for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries; for learning opportunities, corporate capacity building events and multi-cultural celebrations. But it’s also a place where people seek peace and solitude - or come to mourn.”
“You need to be aware and respectful of why people are visiting. Some people want to be left alone – you have to recognize that.”
It’s rumoured that a crowned prince is among the handful of celebrities that have quietly visited the park. “We heard that,” Lisa acknowledges. “We say great! Hope he enjoyed it. Did he have a permit?”
Actor Adam Beech (far right) is one of many celebrities that have enjoyed Fred Henne Park
Overall, both Lisa and Lona believe NWT parks are undervalued by local residents.
“I don’t think enough people recognize what they have right here in Chief Drygeese Territory. Parks are so important to our lives. We need to do more to promote the important role that recreation and parks can play in our lives. We are so fortunate to have facilities like this so close to the city. People travel from around the world to experience our parks.”
Undervalued may also be a good way to characterize the above-and beyond service that Lisa and Lona provide.
“We rescued a little puppy from an outhouse with a bucket, a rope and a stick. Its young owner was so concerned that their parents not find out that we even took it back to the gatehouse and gave it a bath.”
This is not the first time Bottom Line PR has been recognized for their work at Fred Henne. In 2011, the Park was recognized as a Favourite Overall RV Destination by RV West Magazine; and the duo admits that there have been others.
However, the many thank-you notes that they receive from campers and organizations mean just as much to them. “They show us that we are having an impact. Our guests are happy. We’re doing our job.”
The winner of the Fred Henne Coolest Camper distinction for 2021
So what’s next for the 2021 Parks Operators of the Year?
As Lisa and Lona reminisce and talk about “their” park, it’s clear they are not planning on retiring anytime soon. That’s good news for those who enjoy their special touches like the many interpretive programs, the #Coolest Camper Contest, art workshops and kid’s goodie bags.
“We could write a book,” they muse, “a very interesting one…”