Heritage tourism study full of ideas

While it remains to be seen what recommendations may be implemented from it, a heritage tourism study presented to council Monday night contained a wide variety of ideas regarding the future of the museum and historic sites in Fort Frances.
“It identifies the museum as the main heritage attraction in the community. And that’s important when planning what direction to take when it comes to promoting tourism here,” museum curator Pam Hawley said Tuesday.
She noted the study recommends the museum, which would be renovated and expanded, will serve as a “gateway” to the La Verendrye Parkway, guiding tourists first to Scott Street, then off to Front Street to take in the riverfront.
“It really ties into the ‘Re-Inventing Fort Frances’ study. It’s about investing in the downtown core,” stressed Hawley, adding implementing some of the ideas in the study will require the co-operation of groups like the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) and Chamber of Commerce.
She added the concept of a “gateway” potentially could mean a pathway running from the rear of the museum to the riverfront, as well as banners and flower baskets lining the streets to show the way.
Other ideas included in the report, which was presented to council by Jeff Frank of consultants Hilderman Thomas Frank and Cram, include:
•relocating the “Hallett” and the Lookout Tower at Pither’s Point to the La Verendrye Parkway;
•not building another Fort St.. Pierre, but instead erecting interpretive panels telling the histories of the four previous forts built here at the four red kiosks along the waterfront;
•upgrading the museum to health and safety standards, and expanding it to include more programming and exhibits (this could mean adding onto the current building until it reaches the sidewalk instead of remaining recessed from the street as it is now); and
•creating a joint strategy with other regional museums, such as the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds) and ones in International Falls, for promotion.
Frank also noted the operational structure of the museum should be altered, as currently Hawley does “everything,’” he remarked.
Instead, some of her administrative duties should be shifted to town administration while others, such as promotion, should be included in the work the town’s economic development officer.
This would leave the curator to devote more time to actually work on exhibits and such.
And finally, Frank said a museum foundation should be struck here for the purpose of fundraising and developing an endowment fund.
“I thought there were some great ideas, some very doable ideas, in the study,” said Coun. Tannis Drysdale, who admittedly worked on the report as a consultant but was hired to do so prior to her running for council last November.
“As a councillor, I appreciate the consolidation of attractions, the idea for a foundation to raise money for capital projects, and the restructuring of the operation of the museum,” she added.
“I think we should go ahead with it.”
“There’s certainly some interesting ideas in it,” agreed Mayor Dan Onichuk. “A lot of them have been around for 20 years, and this is just finalizing them into one report.
“I think the key is to use this information to identify what our the downtown is,” he added. “We need to get the BIA on board, and approach it as a means of maintaining the downtown core.
Mayor Onichuk noted that while some suggestions of the study, such as moving the Lookout Tower, might be debatable, the notion of building up the museum—and its surrounding area—as a tourist stop was crucial.
Council referred the report to the Community Services executive committee for a recommendation.
Frank noted most of the recommendations in the report are economically achievable using a multi-year phased plan.
This would be made possible through the museum’s reserve funds (currently at $200,000) as well as funding from senior levels of government, with the town only having to pitch in as little as 15 percent of the costs in some cases.
The heritage tourism study cost roughly $25,000, with the bill split between the province and the town. The town’s half came from museum reserves.
Work on the study began late last year.
(Fort Frances Times)