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documents point to multiple reasons for why people may not be visiting, including being far from tourist areas, having outdated facilities or simply being difficult to recognize.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

UPDATE: Kelowna man given 4 year sentence after creating pimp operation on dating site

In court the details of how Simon Rypiak lured 4 women into prostitution revealed

Recovering Kelowna addict rises above her past

Victimized by systems suppose to help, a woman tries to fix her life

Plugged in: Kelowna teen thriving with professional eSports U.S. team

Russel Van Dulken turned his love and skills of gaming into a career

Okanagan College names new fundraising director

Helen Jackman will join the college as executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation and director of advancement

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Okangan author shorlisted in B.C. historical writing competition

The BC Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing will be awarded together with $2,500 to the author whose book makes the most significant contribution to the historical literature of British Columbia.

Most Read