Staff at Muskoka Heritage Place have been looking forward to opening and have been busy creating new protocols and cleaning regimes while waiting for the green light from the provincial government.
With the province now in Stage 2 of the COVID-19 recovery plan, Muskoka Heritage Place is able to welcome guests back. The attraction will open on July 10.
“We had been planning for months as to what the site would look like if we were permitted to open,” said Ron Gostlin, manager of Muskoka Heritage Place. “When the province moved into Stage 2, permitting groups up to 10 and allowing heritage sites to reopen, we knew our site was tailor-made for social distancing. There’s plenty of room to spread out and still enjoy what the site has to offer.”
Gostlin said the heritage attraction has about 40,000 square feet of walking and green space, not counting the buildings.
Once open, Gostlin said it will be business as usual, with a twist. Guests will be encouraged to make a reservation by visiting muskokaheritageplace.ca/reservations, with reservations scheduled 10 minutes apart to allow groups to move forward and avoid a bottleneck of visitors.
To comply with Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit orders, all visitors are asked to wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces. Visitors are asked to bring their own.
“They will be met by a visitor ambassador who will explain how they will move about the buildings and site, and where to locate hand washing and sanitizer stations,” he said. “Once the path is clear, they will be directed to admissions for payment, given our daily activity schedule, and either into the museum or out into the pioneer village. As several of the pioneer dwellings are tight inside, people will be instructed to not enter until the group in there leaves. We’ve reworked demonstrations and adapted to our buildings where space won’t allow enough distancing and have either relocated the demo or rerouted the flow.”
The daily activity schedule will help guests know what is happening, where and when.
“We plan to offer the same great pioneer experience you know and love, including the daily activity schedule: farm animals, pioneer school lessons, blacksmith demonstrations, candle making, pioneer chores and wool carding,” said Gostlin. “Not only is this a great way for children and adults to get outside, it’s also educational with demonstrations and artifacts. We are opening in stages to ensure that we can do it safely, so we won’t be opening with the train, at first. We’ll get the pioneer village and museum going and then, if everything is going as planned, we’ll bring the train on line hopefully at the beginning of August.”
Gostlin said staff knew early on they wouldn’t be opening the doors if they couldn’t do so safely.
“The best thing that we can do is to provide people with the space and distance that they need between themselves, other visitors and our personnel; so the process has been well thought out to eliminate these bottlenecks,” he said. “In addition to the visitor ambassador we will have site ambassadors and their purpose, in addition to adding to the narrative experience, is to be our eyes out on site—to ensure and or react swiftly to anyone who isn’t taking our protocols seriously.”
Even with COVID-19 protocols, Gostlin said guests will be able to enjoy life as it was.
“Once here, the experience will be very much the same. I mean that’s the goal of a museum depicting life a hundred years ago: to keep it looking like it did a hundred years ago,” he said. “And, honestly, I believe what so many others have said when reopening their business is that some of the things that you incorporate to mitigate COVID-19 end up being really good ideas in customer service or logistics. I think that the ambassadors are a great addition to orientating visitors and being another onsite go-to person for directions and activities. There will, however, be more emphasis on the visitor to realize their position onsite and where they are in relationship to others.”
Muskoka Heritage Place will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last reservation at 3 p.m.
“We’ve been a fabric on the landscape since the museum opened in 1958, on Caroline St, and the pioneer village will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year,” said Gostlin. “We normally would be welcoming people from all over the world. Until that happens, we are very excited about welcoming those from our own province and most importantly we hope to welcome those from our back yard, our own community. Our staff and volunteers are very much looking forward to another season of education and entertainment and can’t wait to welcome you.”
For more information, call 705-789-7576 ext. 3210 or visit muskokaheritageplace.ca.
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