Nova Scotia

Don't leave Lunenburg in the lurch, mayor urges feds eyeing new heritage sites

The mayor of Lunenburg says as the federal government accepts nominations for a new slew of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it needs to provide more support for the ones it already has.

Rachel Bailey says bearing the lion's share of responsibility for preserving the Old Town has been difficult

Established in 1753, Old Town Lunenburg has retained its original layout and overall appearance. (Taxiarchos228)

Before the federal government accepts nominations for a new slew of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the mayor of Lunenburg says it should provide more support for those it already has.

Rachel Bailey says Old Town Lunenburg's designation has been very much a blessing, raising the town's profile not only provincially, but nationally and worldwide.

"But when it comes to the sustainability of the infrastructure that makes us what we are, that's a challenge," she said.

"It's disappointing that after 20 odd years now, that's still not been recognized as worthy of support from our federal government."

Mayor Rachel Bailey has picked up the mantle from former mayor Laurence Mawhinney, who had also appealed to the federal government for funding. (CBC)

Last August, Catherine McKenna, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced that for the first time in a decade, Canadians could submit new places to be considered for UNESCO World Heritage designation.

Right now, there are 18 UNESCO sites in Canada and more than 1,000 worldwide, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China. 

In Canada, Old Town Lunenburg was designated in 1995 for being the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. 

Heritage upkeep falls on town's shoulders

Bailey said Old Town Lunenburg is unique because it is part of a town comprised, for the most part, of private properties and private property owners.

Most of Canada's other UNESCO World Heritage Sites are federally managed properties, such as Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland.

As the Old Town sees thousands of tourists each year, Bailey said it could use a public washroom and an interpretive centre. Another of Nova Scotia's World Heritage Sites, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, has an interpretive centre.

Other needs include a bylaw enforcement officer and incentive program that would encourage adherence to bylaws already in place to better protect the Old Town's heritage. Money is also needed to maintain deteriorating infrastructure, she said.

Rachel Bailey said Parks Canada did provide support for a World Heritage Site monument. (Town of Lunenburg)

Bailey said the federal government should assume responsibility to help protect and manage UNESCO sites. 

"We see ourselves and take pride in ourselves as a showpiece for the province and for the country, for that matter," Bailey said.

"If we look a little frayed around the edges, that doesn't reflect well on any of us."

Designation doesn't come with dollars

Parks Canada says it has either full or shared responsibilities for the management of 12 of Canada's 18 World Heritage Sites. The remaining six, including Old Town Lunenburg, are managed by other jurisdictions such as municipal or provincial authorities.

Spokeswoman Audrey Champagne wrote to CBC that no funding accrues from inscription of a Canadian site on the World Heritage list, though some sites have access to financial support through Parks Canada's national cost-sharing program for heritage places.

"This is the case for all Canadian World Heritage Sites, including those owned by the federal government, such as national parks and national historic sites."

Joggins director Jordan LeBlanc says the federal government was instrumental in the construction of its interpretive centre but "we have yet to approach the federal government for any major funds or tasks that I know of." (Joggins Fossil Institute)
Champagne said services and financial contributions for Lunenburg have included provision of technical advice to the town on cultural resources management, support for travel to World Heritage-related meetings in Canada and cost-sharing funding for eligible projects within the Old Town.

For example, along with the province and ACOA, Parks Canada provided funding for the 2010 Lunenburg Heritage Sustainability Strategy in April 2010.

Parks Canada said it continues to focus on maintaining a strong and positive working relationship with the community on matters relating to the national historic site and UNESCO designations.

Town appeals to local MP

Bernadette Jordan, MP for South Shore-St. Margaret's, said she has brought the town's concerns forward to MacKenna and hopes the door is now open for further conversations about funding options available for the town.

Additions to the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination list, last updated in 2004, will be revealed in 2017 in honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The next deadline to submit an application to the program is Feb. 13.