2020 Management Plan - Newsletter number 2

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

An invitation to participate, December 2020

Parks Canada has prepared the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site draft management plan in consultation with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and Canadians.

You are invited to share your views and opinions on the future of Bar U Ranch. Please take some time to review this summary of key challenges, opportunities and vision elements as presented in the draft management plan. The public consultation period will run from December 8, 2020 to February 8, 2021.

The purpose of this consultation is to allow Indigenous groups, municipalities, partners, community stakeholders, residents and Canadians the opportunity to have input on the priorities for the Bar U Ranch in the next decade.

This newsletter is a summary of the draft management plan and the proposed management approach for Bar U Ranch. The draft management plan includes an updated vision, 3 proposed key strategies with a set of objectives and corresponding targets specific to the site.

About the site

The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site was one of the founding corporate ranches established in southern Alberta. It operated as a large company from 1882 to 1950, and continued as a smaller entity under successive families until the headquarters site was purchased by Parks Canada in 1991. Indigenous people have played a significant role in the history of the ranch since its inception. The Bar U Ranch was able to establish strategic relationships within shifting economic markets due to the size, knowledge and connection of its owners and managers. This enabled the ranch to be successful for many years.

Located in the foothills about an hour’s drive from Calgary, the National Historic Site presents a living, working ranch to visitors with many hands-on activities. Today, the visitor experience offer consists of a combination of personal and non-personal interpretation.

Consultations to date

In June 2019, Parks Canada invited Canadians, members of Treaty 7 and the Metis Nation of Alberta to share their views and opinions on the future of Bar U Ranch. All were invited to review a summary of vision elements, key challenges and opportunities to be considered in the development of the draft management plan. Consultations were held with key stakeholders and partners, some Indigenous Nations and staff of the Bar U Ranch on the proposed direction for the site.

We Heard from You – A Draft Plan

The feedback shaped the management approach for Bar U Ranch. The planning team reviewed and considered all of the feedback from the first phase of consultations to develop the draft management plan.

Support for the proposed plan was high during phase one of consultation. Participants were generally in agreement with the proposed management direction, key challenges, opportunities and vision elements. The following is a summary of the proposed management approach outlined in the draft management plan.

2020 operational season

The pandemic had an impact on summer operations and has delayed management planning. The site opened on a limited basis in June 2020. Visitation was lower than previous years due to the limited offer, cancellation of educational and tour groups, and the closures of the café and gift shop this season.

In 2020, the site was able to enhance Indigenous presentation with a tipi camp, establish a new walking trail, complete rehabilitation of the historic work horse barn and host several special events following Covid-19 guidelines. The tipi camp, walking trail and restoration represent tangible improvements to the site based on preliminary feedback provided to the site during the first phase of consultation.

The proposed management approach

The management approach aims to integrate the three elements of Parks Canada’s mandate, resource protection, public education and visitor experience, in order to contribute to Parks Canada Agency’s vision and objectives.

Management plans are reviewed every 10 years in consultation with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public, to ensure that the plan reflects the views and values of Canadians. The planning process for Bar U Ranch began with an assessment of the condition of the site, which identified key issues to be addressed when developing the new plan. The management plan will be approved by the President and Chief Executive Officer of Parks Canada and will be available on the Bar U Ranch national historic site website.


The vision presents the desired state of Bar U Ranch in 15 to 20 years.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site is an iconic landmark that continues to connect local, regional and national audiences to the site’s past, present and future. The site educates and inspires visitors by presenting the people, land and culture of the ranching industry in Canada. A range of visitors includes Indigenous peoples, youth and new Canadians, who actively engage with the site through new programs and updated exhibits and technology.

The sights, sounds and smells of the living ranch have evolved and include more ways for the public to interact with livestock and experience ranch activities through events such as antique farm-equipment demonstrations, collaboration with artists, and spotlighting the rich local talent of the area.

Trails through riparian forest and rangeland corridors provide opportunities for visitors to experience the vibrant cultural and natural history outside our historic core. Our interpretive offer includes Indigenous history and perspectives on the area and opportunities for Indigenous people to share their stories and connections to the land and site. New and revitalized partnerships with Friends of the Bar U Ranch, Indigenous communities and other community partners help foster learning about ranching.

The Bar U is a guardian of the land, animals, historic structures and cultural resources in its care, preserving these for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

5.0 Key strategies

Three key strategies frame the management direction for the Bar U Ranch NHS for the next ten years. The strategies and corresponding objectives and targets focus on achieving the vision for the ranch through an integrated approach to site management. Updates on how the plan is being implemented will be provided to engage Indigenous people, key stakeholders and Canadians.

Key Strategy 1: Protection and Maintenance of Cultural and Natural Resources

This strategy focuses on the preservation and ongoing improvement of the Bar U Ranch’s cultural and natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations. Cultural and natural resources include the ranch’s buildings, artefacts, archaeology sites, viewscapes, cottonwood riparian forest along Pekisko Creek and rangeland.

It also includes the historical resources such as documents, stories and intergenerational knowledge that give meaning to these spaces. Protecting the cultural and natural resources from deterioration and dangers such as extreme weather events like fire and flood is a priority, particularly given that both events will increase in frequency under continued climate change.

The conservation and maintenance of historic structures and improvement of built assets is a priority for the site. A built asset and heritage building conservation strategy needs to be developed for all structures on the ranch contributing to long-term sustainability of historic structures and assets. Fire management and flood mitigation plans will help with emergency preparedness and decrease the likelihood of fire or floods impacting buildings and rangeland on the site. Fire management and flood mitigation plans will be developed within four years of management plan approval.

The Bar U would benefit from a systematic inventory of archival records, an acquisition history of objects and overall inventory reconciliation. Ongoing review of relevant historical literature and new research will ensure that the Bar U is able to present a range of perspectives on the history of ranching and its context. To begin this work, a historical research plan will be developed within two years of this management plan’s approval. To better understand the ongoing history of the Bar U Ranch and the story of ranching, interviews with those that experienced the life of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s will be collected.

Objective 1.1: The condition of the thirty classified structures and built assets at the Bar U Ranch improves as Parks Canada strategically invests in these assets.


  • Within five years, the condition of the building envelopes in the historic core are maintained in ‘fair’ condition by way of routine maintenance.
  • The condition of the built assets at the Bar U Ranch are maintained at a ‘fair’ rating in the next State of Site Assessment.

Objective 1.2: Knowledge and condition of the cultural resources and archival records related to the Bar U Ranch improves.


  • By 2025, inventory of archival records and information improves from 2019 levels.
  • In the next State of Site Assessment, the indicators for archeological sites and archaeological objects under the Cultural Resources theme remain ‘fair’.
  • Within 10 years, 75% of artefacts and objects maintain their heritage value as a result of improved storage.

Objective 1.3: Bar U Ranch has increased resiliency in responding to emergency situations, including those related to increased impacts of climate change.


  • By 2025, the Bar U Ranch will incorporate wildfire risk reduction principles such as vegetation management into its emergency response plan
  • Within 10 years, the Bar U Ranch will plant willows and cottonwoods in strategic locations along Pekisko Creek to minimize erosion and ensure greater bank stability

Objective 1.4: Knowledge and understanding of the natural resources of the site improves, supporting better stewardship of the ranch.


  • By 2025, an ecological inventory assessment of the site will be completed.
Key Strategy 2: Enrich Visitor Experiences

This strategy focuses on innovative and meaningful visitor experiences, and increasing awareness of Bar U Ranch NHS and the ranching history across Canada.

Enriching and interactive visitor programs will be promoted and delivered to a range of visitors leading to increased visitation and revenue. Increased exposure for the Bar U Ranch NHS will raise awareness of the site and its surrounding area as a tourism destination. Outreach and promotional activities will connect visitors to the site’s programs and the significance of the ranch as a national historic site. People will visit the site more frequently, stay longer and include the Bar U Ranch in their travel itineraries, especially enroute to other destinations in southern Alberta and southeastern British Columbia. For example, the site will explore options for overnight accommodation during the next three years, with the possibility of a working offer in the next 5-10 years.

The site will continue to be a safe and animated living ranch complete with heavy horses, saddle horses, cattle and other traditional livestock. An integrated trail system and bridge will create better flow between the cultural and natural elements of the site. Archaeological specimens and historical objects related to the Bar U Ranch will be assessed, evaluated and respectfully used to enhance visitor opportunities and further contribute to the public’s appreciation and understanding of the site. Indigenous perspectives and stories of the history of the area will be included as part of the Bar U Ranch’s visitor experience offer.

Strategic planning focused on promotion, outreach and connecting visitors to the site in creative ways will be essential to achieving the objectives set out in this strategy. This includes the development of visitor experience and outreach strategies and may also include interpretation research, target-market analysis and visitor-use management planning. The strategy rests on the site’s unique features, engagement with partners including Indigenous peoples, research into the desires and interests of target markets, historical and archaeological research and innovative methods of site interpretation or education. A visitor experience strategy will be developed within two years of management plan approval and implemented over the life of this plan.

Objective 2.1: Awareness and understanding of the Bar U Ranch NHS increases locally and nationally.


  • By 2025, 90% of visitors to the Bar U Ranch leave with a deeper appreciation of the role the ranching industry has played in the history of Canada.
  • Within 10 years, virtual reach increases by 10%, through social media and the website from 2019 levels.
  • By 2030, media interest and publications highlighting the Bar U Ranch NHS increases by 10%.

Objective 2.2: Visitation at the Bar U Ranch increases as a result of the quality and diversity of visitor experience opportunities.


  • By 2025, the number of events and programs the site offers increases by 5% from 2019 levels.
  • Within 10 years, repeat visitation to the Bar U Ranch increases by 10% from 2019 levels. By 2025, 80% of visitors are satisfied by the general sense of arrival at the Bar U Ranch.

Objective 2.3: More visitors are connected to the natural elements of the ranch.


  • By 2025, 80% of visitors have a better understanding of the natural elements of the site.
  • Within 10 years, 2% of visitors use the trail system to connect to the natural elements of the Bar U Ranch.
Key Strategy 3: Collaborating to Protect, Present and Promote the Bar U NHS

This strategy focuses on the important partnerships and key relationships that enhance experiences offered at the ranch and in the region.

To achieve this, the Bar U Ranch will deepen existing relationships and develop new relationships locally and regionally. The Friends of the Bar U will continue to be a major partner at the Bar U Ranch working with Parks Canada to present the significance of the ranch to Canadians.

These collaborative relationships will help increase the number and type of programs and events hosted at the ranch ensuring more comprehensive and cohesive storytelling of ranching in the region. Existing and new relationships will lead to an increase in the number of volunteers at the ranch, offering opportunities for historic and archeological research and enhancing visitor experiences. Attention will also focus on collaborating with tourism organizations in southern Alberta to cross-promote the ranch with other tourist destination in Southern Alberta.

Strengthening relationships with local First Nations is a priority for the Bar U Ranch. Indigenous presence and connection to the ranch will increase through the sharing of stories, and inclusion of their perspectives in the overall site presentation and management. The Bar U Ranch will commit to exploring partnerships with local First Nations and encouraging access to the site for Indigenous peoples with traditional connections to the site.

Agreements between the Bar U Ranch NHS and commercial businesses (including leases, rights-of-way, licences-of-occupation and others) will be reviewed and updated when their terms dictate review or renewal.

Objective 3.1: Existing partnerships are enhanced.


  • By 2025, at least one commercial tour operator adds Bar U National Historic Site to its itinerary.
  • The number of volunteers with the Friends of the Bar U Ranch increases by 5% from 2019 levels by 2030.

Objective 3.2: Relationship-building with Indigenous groups who have traditional ties to the area are strengthened through agreements supporting collaborative work.


  • By 2025, the number of Indigenous stories and perspectives in interpretive programs and products related to the Bar U Ranch NHS increases from the 2019 service offer.
  • Through programs such as Open Doors, the number of Indigenous people coming to the Bar U Ranch increases from 2019 levels.
  • Within 10 years, 90% of visitors feel they have a better understanding of Indigenous culture and history related to the area after their visit.

Objective 3.3: The number of new partnerships at the Bar U Ranch increases, resulting in new ways of presenting the Bar U Ranch and the ranching industry.


  • Within five years, the number of new events and programs hosted in collaboration with other organizations increases from 2019 levels.
  • By 2030, the number and quality of partnering and outreach initiatives for the site increases from 2019 levels.

What do you think?

We are inviting you to provide input on the draft management plan. Please review this summary and presentation of the draft management plan for Bar U Ranch. For access to the full plan, visit: Draft Management Plan for Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

How to Participate:

Email your comments to: pc.baruinfo.pc@canada.ca
Mail your comments to: Parks Canada, Box 168, Longview AB T0L 1H0.

If you would like more information on the management planning process, visit 2020 Management Plan

You have until February 8, 2021 to share your opinion, comments or ideas. Thank you for your participation!

Related links

Date modified :