Parks Canada prepares for summer of construction at Green Gables

Visitors to the Green Gables heritage place in Cavendish, P.E.I., may have to contend with some dust and noise this summer as construction continues on a new, larger visitor centre and an expansion of the parking lot.

'It will be a challenge but we're doing everything we can to mitigate the disruptions'

Some visitors from Madrid, Spain, leaving Green Gables after seeing the house. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Visitors to the Green Gables heritage place in Cavendish, P.E.I. may have to contend with some dust and noise this summer as construction continues on a new, larger visitor centre and an expansion of the parking lot.

"It's been challenging but Parks Canada staff have been planning for a long time now on how to mitigate the disruptions and delays that may occur on site this summer," said Chantelle MacDonald, project co-ordinator with Parks Canada.

"There will be dust and noise from the construction, however we have some very good plans in place."

Cars turned away 

The work on the parking lot is scheduled to be done by the end of June. MacDonald said there will be an additional 60 more spots for cars and three more for buses — space they could have used in 2017.

The expansion to the parking lot is scheduled to be completed by the end of June before the peak season begins at Green Gables. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"We had Parks Canada staff in there to help direct visitors and help them get parking spots," MacDonald said.

"But there were cars last summer that were turned away." 

'Excitement has been building'

Irwin Judson of Rusty Rover Tours brings tourists to Green Gables regularly and said he's "pleased as punch" to see the expansion to the visitor centre.   

The expansion to the parking lot will add 60 more spaces for cars and three more spots for buses. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"In the past, particularly on cruise ship days, it would be crowded, it would be stressful trying to get in and compete with everybody, trying to do it efficiently," Judson said. 

He doesn't anticipate the construction will be a problem this summer. 

"Excitement has been building and building and now we're this far away from it so they're not going to get too concerned about some short-term construction," Judson said.

'Won't affect any of the visitors'

The new visitor centre will be five times bigger and will include a gift shop, an interpretive area, Parks Canada offices and the ticket kiosk.

This is a temporary orientation space while the visitor centre is being built. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"The schedule has been changed a little bit just because of the winter construction and the wet spring we've had," said Ryan McGuire, project manager with Public Works and Government Services Canada.

"Things have dried up on site now and the contractor's working to get back on schedule."

Public Works is also keeping a close eye on access for visitors as construction continues.

"We have mitigating measures in place," said McGuire. "The contractor has a fenced-in area so the majority of his construction moving forward once the parking lot is complete will be within the fenced area so it won't affect any of the visitors."

Exhibit changes underway

There are other temporary arrangements until the new visitor centre is completed.

Ann artist's depiction of what the new visitor centre will look like at Green Gables Heritage Place. (Submitted by Parks Canada)

There will be a ticket kiosk near the parking lot and a temporary orientation space for visitors, including a video.

This will be the last summer for the orientation video as it will be replaced by a new interpretive exhibit at the visitor centre.

"The exhibit will focus on messages about Lucy Maud Montgomery, about Anne of Green Gables and of course this beautiful Cavendish area that inspired the author," MacDonald said. "That content development is being done right now."

Completion a year away

The building is scheduled to be complete by the end of September and the entire project in the spring of 2019.

The expanded visitor centre is starting to take shape as the first walls go up at Green Gables Heritage Place. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"It's so exciting to see this project happening," MacDonald said. "I've been working at Green Gables and for Parks Canada for a long time and it's very exciting to see."

This phase of the three-year project has an estimated cost of $5.9 million.

The new visitor centre will provide an introduction to the site, then visitors will walk out and see Green Gables for the first time. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

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Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.