Francophone interpretive centre being discussed for historic riverlot
Arts and Heritage St. Albert, other groups very interested in project
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 20, 2012 06:00 am
There could be a major cultural tourism development coming to Riverlots 23 and 24 in the near future, if Arts and Heritage St. Albert and several significant cultural groups have their way.
The project – a francophone interpretive centre – would shine a huge spotlight on the city and surrounding region.
Arts and Heritage executive director Paul Moulton said he was approached more than a year ago after former board member Lionel Bergevin, then involved with La Société généalogique du Nord-Ouest, prompted him with the proposed development.
“He said, ‘They’ve been looking for many years for a jumping-off point to tell the Franco-Albertan story’. Rather than try to create a place where that might be, St. Albert seemed like the natural place for that to start.”
Moulton added that he thought the most logical way to satisfy that objective was to create an interpretive centre and/or complete the Maison Chevigny, the francophone farm and the Métis farm projects that have long been in discussion and planning.
That way, the historical elements would be presented and appropriately merged with an interpretive aspect including research facilities, promoting the cultural significance of the greater francophone district including Morinville, Legal and Rivière Qui Barre.
Ron St. Jean, the president of SGNO, said his organization is eager to lend assistance in any way it can to the development of the riverlots, especially with a mind to the construction of an interpretive centre.
“We just wish to be able to publicize the fact that the francophone history blossomed out of St. Albert,” he stated.
Moulton echoed that sentiment, discussing the unique role St. Albert played in the history of the region, the province and the country.
“It’s, from my perspective, frankly, a very compelling and exciting and interesting idea. This is something that can and should be leveraged. This is something that comes right out of the roots of this community. This comes out of real history and real people.”
According to St. Jean, some of the SGNO’s members are very enthusiastic promoters of this history, one of whom has many thousands of photos and records relating to early French settlers, plus a large database on the families and where they settled. She was willing to donate all of that to the proposed centre.
“She would love to have these displayed in an educational manner in a proper site. They would be made available to the people of St. Albert and to the province as a whole to demonstrate that St. Albert was the birthplace, if you wish, the cradle of the francophone influence in Alberta.”
He said the SGNO was prepared to contribute financially to the project, and that La Cité francophone, the University of Alberta’s Campus St. Jean and the newly formed La Société historique francophone de l’Alberta were also willing to assist with funding.
Moulton said the project could have strong potential for funding from all levels of government plus the private sector.
The heritage sites functional plan was approved by city council in 2009 and defined the future of the site. Moulton suggested an equipment exhibit and storage building could be adapted to accommodate this new interpretive centre. The plan would need to be opened up to include it.
Everything, including a price tag, is still too early to speculate on, Moulton said. First, a new stewardship agreement must be finalized, something he expects should be done within the next few months.
The city’s 10-year municipal capital plan currently has $15.3 million proposed for the budgets of phases two through five of the heritage sites development work for 2013 to 2016 but so far it is all unfunded. Phase one was the restoration of the grain elevators. That work is now complete.
City council will debate the capital plan on Nov. 20. It is set for approval on Dec. 17.