The buildings once used to depict the fictional Saskatchewan town of Dog River in the popular television comedy Corner Gas have fallen into a worrisome state of disrepair, says the mayor of Rouleau, where the series was filmed.
The small community about 45 minutes southwest of Regina was the main backdrop for comedian Brent Butt's show, which ran for six seasons on CTV. Its final episode aired in April.
Filming of the last episode wrapped up in fall 2008, and since the production left town, the set has become an eyesore, Rouleau Mayor Allen Kuhlmann told CBC News on Thursday.
Kuhlmann said windows were covered with plywood boards, and untended grass had overgrown the areas around the buildings, including the primary set of the gas station and Ruby's Cafe.
Kuhlmann said it was not a very welcoming site, especially considering the set continues to attract fans of the show.
"We have a lot of tourists that are coming and looking and seeing [that] this set has been allowed to deteriorate," Kuhlmann said. "There's no pumps, there's no signs, there's no maintenance."
'Do we need to get together a group called The Friends of Corner Gas? I guess that would be ideal. And then you could have a tourist attraction.' — Allan Kuhlmann, mayor of Rouleau, Sask.
Kuhlmann pointed out that the town of Rouleau has been specifically barred from entering the property or resurrecting any of the familiar signs associated with the program.
"We don't own the property," Kuhlmann said, noting that the production company had rented the space from private owners.
Kuhlmann said the town has tried to meet with people associated with the production, to address concerns but have been put off.
"We have a nuisance bylaw," Kuhlmann added, indicating that the town could insist on some action if the property remained neglected.
Ultimately, Kuhlmann said attending to the property would require money.
"Do we need to get together a group called The Friends of Corner Gas?" Kuhlmann mused, suggesting that some sort of fundraising effort might be required. "I guess that would be ideal. And then you could have a tourist attraction that was open, and people could tour between, maybe, the first of May and the September long weekend."
The head of the company that produced Corner Gas told CBC News that a part of the old set would be painted some time this week, but there were no plans to do anything more.
'We're not in the tourism business.'—Virginia Thompson, Corner Gas producer
"We're not in the tourism business," said Virginia Thompson, president of Verité Films. "We've been able to raise funds independently to be able to make [the old set] as attractive as possible for our fans, but we can't go beyond that."
Kuhlmann said he does not understand why people associated with the site and the program are not interested in its value as a tourist destination. The town itself does not have the capacity to develop the site, he said.
"It's something to look at and take pictures of," Kuhlmann said, if only the windows were intact and the familiar signs were restored. "Admission could be charged, and people could take a tour and … get information. I'm sure that if we had this in the United States, they would have long since figured out how they were going to keep making money from it."
Kuhlmann is especially bothered because prior to the program ending, the town had been promised that even after the departure of the production, there would be a legacy for the locals. However, he could never get details on what that would be.
"We were constantly stonewalled and told to wait and that there would be a wonderful legacy for Rouleau," Kuhlmann said.
"Since they filmed their last episode, absolutely nothing has been done."
Liability an issue
Thompson told CBC News that it would cost a minimum $250,000 to renovate the site to make it suitable for tourists.
"We've explained that to make it safe for tourists, it has to be rebuilt," Thompson said. "It wasn't built as a tourist destination. It must be safe, and that is expensive."
Thompson was also concerned about liability issues if someone was injured while touring the sets.
"If a fan gets hurt on our premises, that would not be good for Corner Gas," Thompson said. "We're not going to get involved in something unless it's going to be really safe for the public."