Fort Macleod should be the first community to capitalize on a new cultural heritage tourism approach, according to a former MLA.
Dave Coutts is leading efforts to get funding to develop a plan that would unite Fort Macleod as a cultural heritage tourism destination.
“There is tremendous potential in cultural heritage tourism,” Coutts said. “People are looking for that type of thing now.”
Coutts was at the Fort Macleod Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday to provide an update on the strategy and plan.
Cultural heritage tourism has been on the federal government’s radar since 2003, with Alberta recently coming on board.
“If we can get in on the ground floor, it will help us be sustainable for the next 50 years,” Coutts said.
Cultural heritage tourism is about travellers looking for “meaningful, authentic and memorable experiences that connect them to places.”
Fort Macleod has a variety of heritage resources that if united for promotion, would provide such an experience.
“We can do it,” Coutts said. “I believe we can. This is Fort Macleod.”
The idea of a cultural heritage tourism strategy for the town began with a discussion by the Fort Macleod Historical Association.
“We took some time to look at what was the future of the Fort Museum,” Coutts said.
A committee was struck that looked at the condition of the Fort and opportunities for better programming.
“What we came up with was a recommendation that we secure some funding from the provincial government,” Coutts said.
The money would be used to hire a consultant to develop a strategy and plan for cultural heritage tourism in Fort Macleod.
The committee looked at resources in Fort Macleod including the Fort Museum, Empress Theatre, 1884 North West Mounted Police Barracks provincial historic site, Main Street, original Fort site and historic homes and cemeteries.
“All of the historic and the cultural resources that we have, there’s not very many communities in Alberta that have that, in that small an area,” Coutts said.
The committee also noted the Fort Museum has a collection of artifacts that is of national significance.
“The collection we have here is second to none in this country, certainly for North West Mounted Police but also for First Nations interpretation,” Coutts said.
Right now the collection is spread all over town, and while the interior artifacts are being looked after well, the exterior ones are not.
“It means we need to have more revenue,” Coutts said. “It means we have to have some partnerships with private entrepreneurs to come in and see if we can find a way to get more money to make sure we preserve the collection and actually improve our facilities.”
The idea is to build something that Fort Macleod can market as a whole, while preserving each of the individual pieces.
The committee has developed a draft terms of reference for a request for proposals from a consultant.
The consultant will develop an organizational structure to lead effective collaboration among the stakeholders in Fort Macleod.
The consultant will also provide a blueprint to guide tourism development activities over the short, medium and long term.
In addition to other tasks, the consultant will deliver an action plan that outlines projects, activities and requirements over the next three years.
Coutts has been working with Alberta Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk and Tourism Minister Richard Starke.
Coutts is hopeful to have approval to develop the plan within the next few months.
“If we are successful . . . Fort Macleod would be another first,” Coutts said. “Fort Macleod should be the first.”