Instagram

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

Sunny ways? Not so much at Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s historic home.

The small structure north of Montreal has seen a sharp decline in attendance, to 623 visitors in 2016 from about 2,600 in 2011.

The same trend is seen at semi-detached homes once owned by Sir George-Etienne Cartier, where the number of visitors has dropped by 67 per cent between 2011 and 2013, marked by a decline in school groups.

A similar story also plays out at other historic sites at the centre of recently launched public consultations that, once complete, will produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures.

RELATED: Banff bison calves frolic in Parks Canada

The consultation documents point to multiple reasons for why people may not be visiting, including being far from tourist areas, having outdated facilities or simply being difficult to recognize.

Laurier’s home is 60 kilometres north of Montreal. The historic site dedicated to the Battle of Chateauguay from the War of 1812 is “not an obvious tourist attraction due to its removed location.”

Cartier’s buildings are in a “secluded” area of Montreal not frequented by tourists and fight for attention from larger attractions nearby like the Montreal Science Centre: “It is therefore difficult to draw attention to the site and attract visitors in this context,” Parks Canada officials wrote in the consultation document.

On the other hand, Ontario’s Niagara region draws millions of visitors annually, benefiting the nearby historic sites that “are more integrated into local tourism infrastructure.”

Visitors to the Coteau-du-Lac historic site along the St. Lawrence River sometimes don’t realize where they are, or have trouble navigating the attraction. The consultation on the 10-year management plan closed in May, but a key objective is to redo the “visitor circuit.”

The agency is similarly suggesting changes to the visitors centre at the Battle of Chateauguay site southwest of Montreal.

The 40-year-old building was designed to welcome up to 18,000 visitors annually, but is now open only three months a year, “incurs exorbitant” heating costs, and needs over $600,000 in repairs: “The centre no longer seems to be the best solution for the national historic site’s success, commemorative quality, or visitor experience.”

Each consultation has a number of options being floated to the public about ways to ensure that visits to each site don’t become a thing of the past.

Historic sites have tried to boost interest through interactive exhibits and collaboration with the people represented in exhibitions, such as Indigenous Peoples or visible minority communities, said Benjamin Forest, an associate professor of geography at McGill University in Montreal.

The idea is to create a personal link to a site, memorial or monument, he said.

“Visiting monuments isn’t primarily about learning facts or a historical story. Rather it’s about creating, or trying to create, an emotional connection,” Forest said.

RELATED: Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Parks Canada plans to spend $23.9 million to integrate Indigenous views, history and traditions into national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites.

Almost 1.3 million people visited all national historic sites between April and June, the agency says. That represents a 14 per cent decline from the same period last year when admission was free for everyone, making comparisons difficult.

Last year’s Canada 150 numbers were part of “a unique opportunity,” said Parks Canada spokeswoman Audrey Champagne.

“By building connections to these places, we can foster the stewards of tomorrow — people who know and care about these national treasures.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Langley’s Wyatt twins make Pan Am team

Wyatts back home after completing freshman year at University of Memphis

VIDEO: Beer lovers tip a few for Langley Rotary Clubs

17th Annual Tip ‘n Taste at Cascades Casino serves up craft suds for local charities

Former Langley school moved to new site for condo project

The old Murrayville Elementary’s core was shifted on its site

VIDEO: Langley couple’s home goes from worst to first

Penny and Leif Sogaard get home makeover on HGTV reality show

Cutting a path to a brighter future in Langley

Syrian refugee takes ownership of Ol’ Crow Barbershop in McBurney Plaza

VIDEO: First Nations, developer call for return and protection of sacred B.C. burial site

Dozens of First Nations leaders gather on grassy plateau to call on action by provincial government

Teen stabbed after end-of-night limo dispute in downtown Vancouver

A young man, 19, is in serious condition following a dispute between two groups

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Alleged driver of semi-truck in fatal Burnaby hit-and-run identified

No charges have been laid and police say the driver is cooperating with the investigation

Bears have killed 17 people in B.C. since 1986

Number of bear complaints and bears killed rose sharply during same period

Most Read