Manitoba

Guardians of Winnipeg historic site ask city for more time to keep the parking meter running

The Friends of Upper Fort Garry are asking Winnipeg for more time to operate a surface-parking lot at the edge of the provincial park that marks the city's birthplace.

Friends of Upper Fort Garry want to maintain surface lot at downtown park until interpretive centre rises

The surface lot operated by the Friends of Upper Fort Garry sits southwest of the fort's former footprint. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)

The Friends of Upper Fort Garry are asking Winnipeg for more time to operate a surface-parking lot at the edge of the provincial park that marks the city's birthplace.

In 2015, the city gave the non-profit organization that runs Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park permission to operate a gravelparking lot for two years at the northeast corner of Assiniboine Avenue and Fort Street.

The lot generates about $100,000 a year in revenue for the Friends, who are responsible for maintaining the provincial heritage park at a cost of about $150,000 a year.

That deal expired in May, prompting the Friends to ask the city for permission to continue charging motorists to park on the lot.

But in June, Winnipeg planning, property and development director John Kiernan rejected that request on the grounds the surface lot doesn't meet city standards because it isn't paved, has no drainage and lacks proper landscaping, fencing and accessible parking.

The Friends are now appealing the decision, arguing they need the revenue to maintain the park until they build an interpretive centre and commercial complex on the surface lot.

Friends of Upper Fort Garry board chair Jerry Gray said the surface-parking lot outside Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park covers about two-thirds of the park's annual operating costs. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)
"Right now, we have a vacant lot. It's a parking lot. It's always been a parking lot, by the way. We're looking for a renewal of our permit, to keep us going with operating costs until we get the building built," said Jerry Gray, who chairs the Friends of Upper Fort Garry board.

"If we don't get the permit, nothing changes at the property. It still sits there. But this is a chance to give a charity some revenue that contributes to the operation of the park."

The Friends are planning to build a grass-roof covered interpretive centre that will house artifacts, a Métis heritage centre, a theatre, restaurant and 25,000 square feet of leasable meeting space. Construction on the $15-million project could begin this winter if the project is conducted in phases, Gray said.

There will be 65 parking stalls below the building, which will continue generating revenue for the park, he added.

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, whose ward includes Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park, declined to comment because she sits on council's property committee, which will hear the Friends' appeal on Sept. 19.

Planning director Kiernan was not available for comment, city spokesperson Kailey Barron said.

A decade ago, the Friends of Upper Fort Garry successfully lobbied against a plan to allow Crystal Developers to build an apartment tower on the site of the surface lot. Crystal wound up building a tower on the south side of Assiniboine Avenue instead.

Right now, Upper Fort Garry Park consists of the former fort's north gate, gardens and an interpretive wall that includes this sculpture. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)
To date, $13.5 million has been spent on building Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park, which consists of gardens, an interpretive wall and the north gate of the former fort, the only surviving piece of what used to be Upper Fort Garry.

"I think it's amazing. Absolutely stunning," said Denise Grant, a tourist from Shropshire, U.K., as she visited the park on Wednesday. "I love that old bit that you've got there — the entrance gate — because it's actually the only original bit, isn't it? 

"I think everything else is gone. But it's a beautiful space. It's phenomenal. It's lovely."

Guardians of Winnipeg historic site ask city for more time

CBC News Manitoba

4 years ago
1:41
The Friends of Upper Fort Garry are asking Winnipeg for more time to operate a surface-parking lot at the edge of the provincial park that marks the city's birthplace. 1:41

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

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