Entry Submission: Interpretation Canada Awards of Excellence
Title: Ripples of the Past Interpretive Walk
Entrant: Kevin Gedling
Organization: Fort St. James - national historic site and the town
Category: Non-personal (Trail Site-Based Exhibit)
Contains: promo brochure (above), entry submission, wayfinder logo sign, in-situ photos, interpretation panels (scroll down)
(Note that graphic presentation of the entry submission document has been lost in transfer to web format)
Fort St. James is one of the oldest communities west of the Continental divide in North America. History stretches back to 1806 and the establishment of a fur post by Simon Fraser. The rhythms of the past that resonate from Stuart Lake and the stories of the Nak'azdli First Nation go much further back in time. The community has evolved with a strong sense of its roots and a diverse past of explorers, entrepreneurs, bush pilots and pioneers. The community has been successful in celebrating this past though the protection and recognition of its own unique cultural resources. As a group of locations stretching from the National Historic Site to Russ Baker Memorial site, attempts had been made to "market" these locations as individual attractions and destinations to visit. However, being diverse and "short" experiences in each site necessitated one, unified project being undertaken. A project to encourage public visitation to the community beyond the National Historic Site, to string some of the important themes in community past together and a project which takes visitors past some of these amazing additional sites.
The Interpretive Walk was spearheaded by a committee of tourism professionals and community members as a side- project from a larger downtown community revitalization. The long term intent was to develop a common feel and theme to ten new interpretive stories detailing Fort St. James and Nak'azdli regional past which could become a legitimate additional tourism attraction and not just be a collection of "local community sites" which are hard to discover on their own.
The community team consisted of: Kevin Gedling & Bob Grill, Product Development Officer, VE Manager. Fort St. James National Historic Site (Parks Canada) Elizabeth Gibb, Graphic Designer, Eggplant Studios (Prince George, BC) Bev Playfair, District Councillor, Fort St. James BC Fort St. James Chamber of Commerce (represented by managers, volunteers and directors at various times) Two members of the Nak'azdli First Nation played leading roles in the development of two panels which discuss their experience in Fort St. James area past. An interpretive theme and brand for the new panels was developed. The theme and title of the program was called Ripples of the Past Interpretive Walk.
Theme: "Like the ripples of water on Stuart Lake, the rhythms of time in Fort St. James are dynamic, diverse and unique. By listening to the stories those rhythms tell, in whole or in part, the past of Fort St. James can be truly felt".
Resources: The total inventory of interpretive walk resources developed was as follows:
10 Interpretive Panels
5 "orientation" panels where a visitor may encounter the walk mid-stream at any point
20 square wayfinder signs with 10 additional replacement signs fabricated in the event of damage, etc.
10,000 Ripples of the Past Promotional brochures distributed for promotional purposes throughout the Northern BC region
An outstanding example of community collaboration:
We feel the Ripples of the Past Interpretive walk is an outstanding example of community collaboration between various stakeholders towards telling the complicated and intricate stories of many groups and interests into one, strongly themed interpretive walking experience. It offers the opportunity to educate and inform in whole or in part and successfully draws visitor attention to urban and park settings of Fort St. James in a well branded experience, offering the community additional economic tourism opportunity besides the existing Parks Canada national historic site. Furthermore, community can now create additional stories, programs, events and opportunities to experience and discover Fort St. James history with the use of the over-arching Ripples of the Past theme, brand and identity which are effective, yet flexible to community needs which may come.
What are the program's goals and objectives?
The goals and objectives of the program were as follows: To take local community historical points of interest and monuments and unify them into one solid heritage tourism visitor experience and interpretive theme To create a new historical tourism experience that compliments the Fort St. James National Historic Site and engages visitors to spend more time in the community. To develop an interpretive product where stories and components were presented as a long lasting legacy to the community and it's history To create an interpretive walk where one entire experience, or individual portions of the walk could be enjoyed, for visitors of all interest levels in Fort St. James history.
Who was your intended audience? The primary audience of the Ripples of the Past Interpretive walk is the 25yrs and older age groups, such as older aged families, empty nesters, retirees and international visitors who come to Fort St. James. The secondary audience is local residents of Fort St. James who frequently walk through their downtown core where many of the panels are situated. The panels make extensive use of high quality past and presently relevant images from the BC Archives and local Parks Canada and District of Fort St. James archives. By engaging visual learners in this way, matters of language barriers and understanding were successfully transcended.
What was the one key idea you wanted participants to take away (theme)? Fort St. James and Nak'azdli is a community with a storied past with many stories that speak, like the ripples that roll in off the waters of Stuart Lake. (Fully developed theme- see previous)
How is your Site's/ Organization's/Agency's mandate fulfilled? Fort St. James National Historic Site: our mandate of protection, education and enjoyment of our National Historic Site is strengthened by the addition of an interpretive community resource which engages visitors to continue learning about the region's past, above and beyond the fur trade of 1896. Our mandate is achieved when we provided additional opportunities for Canadians to learn the full story of Fort St. James beyond the grounds of the fort. We also contributed a lasting legacy to the community without conditions involvement; bringing our professional skills and expertise to assist the community in telling it's story in a fully organized way.
Background information about the asset being interpreted. (In this case, our community on natural and cultural heritage levels) All aspects of Fort St. James past have been influenced by it's proximity to the mighty waters of Stuart Lake, an 80km long wild body of water in the central interior of BC. Industrial history, aviation, fur trade and first Nations all centre on the role of the lake in shaping their stories. Fort St. James is a community with many historic places worthy of protection and commemoration. It is also a community which covers more than two hundred years of evolution and more, when factoring in the full experience of our local aboriginal peoples. Fort St. James developed a number of industrial and memorial sites which were marketed as individual "attractions", with no theme or tie between them. Visitor experience was confused, fragmented and unconvincing to a regional visitor. The community of Fort St. James has long wrestled with how to convince visitors to Fort St. James National Historic Site to further enjoy the rest of the community itself. Often people come to the national historic site and leave (we are located on the edge of the entrance to the town itself). The development of a common interpretive theme and brand which appeals to broad audiences and is a legitimate tourism attraction in addition to the National Historic Site, makes many of the smaller attractions into one larger experience with a better chance at retaining local and international interest.
Square wayfinder signs along the walk use this logo - also used in interpretive product branding and promotions. design by eggplant studios.
Interp panels are placed in community parks and green spaces throughout the town from Fort St. James National Historic Site to Cottonwood Beach and the Russ Baker Memorial. This is the Chief Kwah and Simon Fraser signs overlooking Stuart Lake.
Placed at Cottonwood Beach, visitors here are reading the "Lake As a Highway" sign. The additional panel is a generic orientation panel, alerting them to the presence of other heritage sites along the walk
The walk travels past additional cultural resources sites, such as an 1890's Catholic Church in the background. The walk features topics of significance ranging from endangered species in Stuart Lake to historical uses of lands in the past.
The 10 interpretive panels: