MIDDLETON, NS - When the visitor information centre in Middleton opens for the season, it won’t be at the old Bridge Street location behind the local convenience store. It will be in the stately century-old museum on School Street.
Council looked at options during its committee of the whole meeting March 19 after receiving a report on cost of operations and condition of the VIC building on Bridge Street. The service can run $20,000 a year and the old building needs upgrades.
“They took all that information and had to make a decision on if they wanted to provide the service anymore or not,” said Jennifer Coolen in charge of the town’s Recreation and Community Services department. “They see the value in having that frontline staff to welcome people to the town in hopes that visitors come back either as residents or business owners – or visitors again.”
The town’s own building isn’t a very welcoming structure and needs a lot of work, she said.
“We looked at the cost associated with another building and that’s not something we can afford right now,” she said. “There are lots of other welcoming, existing buildings out there and the museum is one of them.”
Council asked Coolen to see if Macdonald Museum would be an option. Built in 1903, the museum was originally Canada’s first consolidated school named Macdonald Consolidated School.
“After council’s request we approached the museum to see if they’d be interested in partnering and they are on board,” she said. “They’re also trying to bring more people to the museum so it’s a win/win.”
“When we were approached by the town asking if we would be interested in hosting the VIC, we were happy to help out,” said museum director Janice Slauenwhite. “We have the space and the building here provides ample parking for visitors, especially those in RVs.”
The museum itself is already a destination.
“We have lots for visitors to see while they are in the building so it’s truly a win/win situation,” Slauenwhite said. “We are always happy to help out the community in any way we can.”
Coolen said with the museum’s help, the town can still provide that same level of service without putting money into a building.
“It will still be staffed by the town,” said Coolen. “We’ll still hire a couple of students to run it and the museum staff will be there to help with covering breaks. It’s not going to be their role but they will be there to help.”
One thing the town will have to do is invest in some signage.
“It’s going to take time to get everybody locally, let alone visitors, to know where to go,” she said.
There is a trend towards online apps for tourists to use to scout out interesting vacation destinations. Coolen doesn’t discount that.
“Council seems to value the service, and having both frontline people physically there to welcome you and having information that’s accurate and accessible and convenient from anywhere,” she said. “We want to have both of those.”
At the end of the day, the town values the personal approach.
“We want them (visitors) to know what we have to offer and we want them to see the people and how friendly they are and why we are Heart of the Valley,” she said.