PEI

Green Gables makeover continues as work begins on expanded visitor centre

The visitor season may be over but there's lots still happening at the Green Gables heritage site in Cavendish, P.E.I. Construction is underway on Phase 2 of a three-year project that includes a new, larger visitor centre and an expansion of the parking lot.

Parking lot also being reconfigured to hold more vehicles, improve traffic flow at heritage site

Chantelle MacDonald of Parks Canada says the changes will improve visitor flow at the Green Gables site. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The visitor season may be over but there's lots still happening at the Green Gables heritage site in Cavendish, P.E.I.

Construction is underway on Phase 2 of a three-year project that includes a new, larger visitor centre and an expansion of the parking lot. 

"One of the major issues that we'll be addressing is visitor flow," said Chantelle MacDonald,  project co-ordinator for Parks Canada on P.E.I.

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

The new visitor centre will be five times bigger than the old centre, which was often overcrowded. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"In the old visitor centre, the space in the lobby was very small and a big group of people would arrive on a motor coach and there would be really nowhere for them to go other than to stand there and wait for the video to start," MacDonald said.

"There were many pinch points throughout the site." 

The Green Gables site in Cavendish is expanding to accommodate a growing number of visitors. (CBC)

When it's complete, the new visitor centre will also be the introduction to Green Gables.

"The visitor centre has a wonderful new exhibit about Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables and we felt that the reveal of the house, after the exhibit, would be the perfect spot in the visitor experience for people to first see the house," MacDonald said.

"The building design was meant to facilitate that so as soon as people get to the end of that exhibit there's a beautiful big window that has a beautiful view of Green Gables house."

The former entrance is being turned into a parking area, in part because of safety concerns. Visitors would stop as soon as they saw Green Gables and get out of their vehicle to take a photo, blocking traffic. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

One of the other big changes is a reconfiguration of the entrance and parking area.

"The parking here has been an issue for the past number of years with the increased number of visitors they've had over time," said Ryan McGuire, project manager with Public Works and Government Services Canada.

The former exit to the site will become the entrance and the driveway will be turned into an expanded parking area.

It had been subject to flooding, and there were safety concerns when visitors would stop and block traffic as soon as they saw Green Gables.

The work at Green Gables will continue through the summer of 2018. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"The east entry way provided that beautiful viewplane and as soon as they saw the house, they stopped their car and got out of their car to take pictures," MacDonald said.

Phase 2 of the project will cost an estimated $5.9 million. The new visitor centre is scheduled to be completed in September and new interactive exhibits will be installed for the 2019 season.

About the Author

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 rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca