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What does Wakefield look like to a tourist?

February 22nd,2023 | Opinion

Wakefield needs to stop pretending it’s not a tourist town.

It is, and the small businesses here need that extra traffic to make ends meet.

News broke last week that the much-loved Wakefield Steam Train locomotive would no longer be making its final resting place at the Parc de la Ferme-Dalton in Gatineau. They don’t want it.

And it seems like nobody does. What a wasted opportunity.

There’s only one place where the locomotive belongs and it’s right in the heart of the village in Wakefield at the railway turntable.

But when you ask the powers-that-be about the possibility of the locomotive ending up in Wakefield as a tourist exhibit or information booth, they all seem like the project is more of a burden than a boon. When the Low Down brought the idea to MRC Prefect Marc Carrière last week, he wasn’t convinced it would be a good idea and suggested the locomotive would be better suited to be parked at the Outaouais Regional Museum, which isn’t even built yet.

The locomotive is sitting in a shed in Gatineau — alone, cold, and unloved.

It’s a clear no-brainer to bring the locomotive to Wakefield. Think about the opportunities it would bring. Currently, when a tourist descends on our village and asks someone where the tourist information is, we are forced to tell them to go to the end of the village, cross the bridge and walk across the street to Maison Fairbairn. Wouldn’t it be nice for tourists to show up and see a giant train puffing steam with a sign that reads, “Centre d’information touristique?”

The City of Kingston did it in 2013, and the historic Engine 1095 has become a significant tourist attraction for the city. The engine was fully restored in 2013 after a group of volunteers known as The 1095 Restoration Volunteer Group offered solutions to the engine’s deteriorating condition. Through a partnership with the City of Kingston and plumbing union Local 221, the community completed the project, and it is a shining example of civic pride in Canada.

Sound familiar? Wakefield Confiserie owner Marc Fournier spent years of his life trying to get the train back on the rails under the Wakefield Steam Train Group. His efforts failed, and the train has since been bounced around to Montebello and Gatineau.

With the new owners of Vorlage set to bring a swath of new mountain bikers to town this summer, we need to start thinking about what we want our tourist village to look like.

Do we want them to see an empty Black Sheep Inn, so we can tell them how many great bands used to come here? Do we want them to see the once-loved Alpengruss Restaurant, which is now a derelict eyesore, so we can tell them how great the German breakfast spot used to be?

The tourists are coming whether we like it or not, but the big question is, will they keep coming?

Let’s give them a reason to.

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