Heritage sites off to busy start

Duane Hicks

The relocated and refurbished “Hallett” and lookout tower along the La Verendrye Parkway opened Friday and have been quite busy so far.
Marina operator Meagan Berry said the sites saw about 50 visitors on Saturday, and every other day have drawn 15 or more people.
The combined lure of the new attractions, the sunny, warm weather and availability of ice cream at the marina, has meant plenty of business for the Sorting Gap Marina lately, added Berry, who noted, “It was one of our best opening weekends.”
Some of those who toured the sites in the first few days shared their thoughts on the waterfront attractions.
“I think it’s sweet,” said Dustin Melrose just after coming down from the lookout tower Monday afternoon.
“It’s really good for exercise,” noted Karen Jensen.
“I like it,” she added. “You can see a lot of the town—you can even see how deep the water is from up there.”
“You can see the Point over there, even,” echoed Melrose.
Jim Engelman and his six-year-old son, Colton, visited the sites Saturday. And, at Colton’s request, came back again Monday.
“I liked every part of the big boat,” said Colton.
“I am impressed they opened up the ‘Hallett’ and all the rooms in it,” added Jim Engelman.
Colton noted the lookout tower “had too much stairs,” later clarifying that “it made my dad tired, but not me.”
“He ran up there. I had to tell him to stop and wait for me,” said Engelman, noting the tower had a “nice scenic view.”
But it could use a flag, and maybe some lights inside so it also could be a nighttime attraction.
Generally speaking, Engelman said he thought the sites were “a good idea,” but hopes the waterfront will be developed further down the road.
“The only bad thing is you have a nice area and you don’t have a restaurant,” he remarked. “It’s supposed to be a tourist attraction, but there’s no place for the tourists to come to and sit and enjoy themselves, besides maybe having an ice cream cone.
“You want to try and attract them to stay here,” he stressed.
“There’s lots they could do down here,” Engelman noted. “I keep thinking of Kenora . . . it’s beautiful.
“I think there’s more they could be doing here,” he added, saying another feature that would do well here is a “loonie bear” like they have at the Kenora harbourfront (the Community Foundation Loonie Bear is a five-ton bear which people put money into and take their photos with, with proceeds going to Kenora-area charities).
Admission to the heritage sites is available at the Sorting Gap Marina or Fort Frances Museum.
The cost is for $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for seniors and children 12 and under, or a maximum family fee of $10.50.
Paying admission provides access to the “Hallett,” lookout tower, and the Fort Frances Museum.
Visitors are given a time sensitive tag with an access code that is changed daily.
The Sorting Gap, as well as the “Hallett” and tower sites, are open daily from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (depending on weather).
Children under 14 must be accompanied by a caregiver age 16 or older. Appropriate footwear is required.
Visitors also are asked to take care and use caution as surfaces are uneven and platforms are steep and high.
The Fort Frances Museum, meanwhile, is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. until Oct. 10 (hours subject to change).
In related news, a multi-day celebration is planned in conjunction with “Tourism Week” to mark the grand opening of Phase II of the Heritage Tourism Project.
On Friday, June 4, there will be a reception at the Ontario Tourism Information Centre at 10 a.m., followed by a walk down the wayfinding route (from the border to the waterfront via Victoria Avenue.
This will be followed by a grand-opening ceremony at the lookout tower at noon, followed by an international tug-of-war at 12:30 p.m. and a “Fun in the Sun” fundraiser barbecue.
Also at the waterfront, Fred Scheer’s Lumberjack Shows will perform at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m., featuring log-rolling, cross-cut sawing, pole-climbing, axe-throwing, and more.
Back on Scott Street, a new exhibit at the museum focusing on lumber camps will open while work by local artists will be on display at downtown businesses.
There also will be art activities at the museum, coinciding with a visit from Community Arts and Heritage Education Program co-ordinator Lila Cano.
Museum curator Pam Cain said other groups interested in holding events during the celebration should let her know by calling 274-7891 or e-mailing pcain@fort-frances.com
Then the annul “fly-in, drive-in” barbecue is slated for Saturday, June 5 at the Fort Frances Airport.
At the museum, there will be a workshop about grant writing with Cano on Saturday morning, followed by some sort of event to further promote the “What Hooks You Here?” rug-hooking project.
Finally, an afternoon paddle on the upper river is scheduled for Sunday, June 6.
Residents are invited to come out with their canoes and paddles (the town also will have a limited supply of them available through the recreation program).
For more information, contact the Fort Frances Museum at 274-7891 or via e-mail at ffmuseum@fort-frances.com