The following article appeared in the Westport Review-Mirror of Thursday, April 19, 2012. I am reprinting it here for the benefit of those who do not have access to this fine Rideau Corridor weekly newspaper. Naturally, the sentiments expressed are purely my own and are far from being the opinion of The Friends of the Rideau.
The impact of the coming Rideau Canal “Right Sizing” exercise promises to be really severe on the canal staff, the attractiveness of the Corridor as a destination, and, of course, on the Corridor communities. Couple all that with high gas prices here and in the US and tourism will be really smacked!
On the other hand, the maintenance of the grounds around the lock stations is bound to be cut back. This may have the unintended benefit of having the lock stations return to a more traditional look – high grass, weeds, etc., which will, no doubt, be better for the environment. I believe that they tried this once before in one of the canal shutdowns. Perhaps management is getting a bum rap – they’re secret environmental weenies (yeah, right!).
You would almost think that the effort to get a World Heritage designation was never really intended to succeed by the top brass, who would regard it as a useful PR exercise that UNESCO would never approve. Horrors ! It was approved. OK – let’s drag our feet on the subsequent parts of the mandate – the cultural landscape studies, for example. If we can only slow this down enough and do a poor enough job on other things, maybe we can get the Designation reversed. After all, we don’t need the entire canal open to run Winterfest every year – we only need to maintain the section from Hartwell’s to the Ottawa locks.
Something similar could be done at Jones Falls. Keep it going as a tourist attraction and hire local boaters to go through on a schedule – go down river and then turn around and lock back up – brilliant! Get some local youth and lock staff to dress up in period costumes, etc., and sell the opportunity to have your photo taken with the quaint local citizens. Every summer weekend you can have local groups perform – drama, music, dancing, beer tent, maybe a little casino?
Even better – let’s take a page from early railway promoters and encourage municipalities, etc., to agree to pay subsidies to poor old Parks Canada for keeping the local lock stations open. For example, they might extend the Jones Falls performances all the way up to the Narrows. Sort of a poor man’s Disney World – you get the idea – it’s not real, but the kids like it and the tourists will lap it up. I think we can make this work.
Now a lot of local historians ( I name no names) may object, but they are simply blocking progress.
I could go on but people might think that I was bitter or else doing this tongue in cheek. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I offer this as a free suggestion to CEO Alan L. and his gang of merry men and women back at the “Shoddy Towers” in Gatineau. It worked for Robin Hoo, who is still getting good PR. Taking from the poor to give to the rich, or something like that – I forget how the Mission Statement goes.
All of this will spur interest in my book, “Invisible Army” that covers earlier examples of such inspired budget exercises. Pretty soon I’ll have to get on the road and start the “Invisible Army” marching – “Left, right, left, right ! Forward, march ! Corridor book stores – prepare for landslide sales !
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