Maple Creek Entering Second Phase of Culture Planning
Almost a decade ago the community of Maple Creek decided to create more interest in the heritage buildings in their downtown core. Its people saw other communities lose their signature buildings and it seemed the identity of these communities was slowly being eroded away. Maple Creek’s early 20th century streetscape buildings were intact and they realized they had something unique that should be retained, understood and appreciated.
The Maple Creek Heritage Advisory Committee emerged and worked to create a heritage district, but realized designation of a district was only the beginning of creating a vibrant cultural area. The Committee received a Municipal Cultural Engagement and Planning (MCEP) Grant from SaskCulture to help them move forward with planning and community engagement.
“It’s not only about creating the plan but also about changing the culture of a community where heritage may not have been valued and culture may not have been understood,” says Royce Pettyjohn, program coordinator, Maple Creek Main Street Program. “There may not have been a huge interest in making strategic investments in culture and heritage. Changing that understanding of its value and role in a community and then putting the funding in place and doing the work that needs to be done… that’s a fairly major shift in acommunity and it takes time.”
The process began by bringing in urban planning consultants, DIALOG, to help coordinate community engagement at the 2012 Maple Creek Cultural Mosaic, community organization and stakeholder workshops, a community visioning forum, and a community event. “Jennifer Keesmaat, who was the principal with DIALOG, did a presentation about place-making and how heritage conservation and cultural planning can really make places unique, desirable and attractive, and enhance quality of life. This was ultimately the objective of what we were trying to do,”says Pettyjohn. As the cultural plan developed, the community also worked on a heritage conservation and downtown revitalization plan.
Six strategic directions were outlined in the cultural plan. To nurture the outstanding culture of volunteerism, integrate cultural organizational silos, celebrate diversity and foster inclusivity, continue to work with local First Nation and Métis groups toward shared cultural goals, increase the visibility of the arts and artists in the community, and support existing and new cultural venues.
“For some of the stakeholders interested in cultural development there was an interest in revitalizing our historic theatre downtown as a way of conserving a heritage resource building, but also creating a venue for cultural performances” says Pettyjohn. The community has received a second MCEP grant for phase two of the project. It will look at what mechanisms are needed to break down the silos in the community, as well as a feasibility study for the theatre as a performing arts and community cultural centre.