Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada Draft Management Plan, 2024

Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site

The Prince of Wales Fort Management Plan was last updated in 2011. It was set to be renewed in 2021, but the process was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2011, some changes to the planning process have occurred. Most notably, management planning is now undertaken on a 10-year cycle (previously five-year cycle), with strengthened implementation and monitoring procedures put in place throughout the cycle.

Management planning provides the opportunity to take stock of the site and set a course for the future, and feedback from partners, stakeholders and visitors is a vital part of this process. The public consultation period is now closed.

On this page

1.0 Introduction

Parks Canada administers one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and historic places in the world. Parks Canada’s mandate is to protect and present these places for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. Future-oriented, strategic management of each national historic site, national park, national marine conservation area and heritage canal administered by Parks Canada supports its vision:

Canada’s treasured natural and historic places will be a living legacy, connecting hearts and minds to a stronger, deeper understanding of the very essence of Canada.

The Parks Canada Agency Act requires Parks Canada to prepare a management plan for national historic sites administered by Parks Canada. The Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan, once approved by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada and tabled in Parliament ensures Parks Canada’s accountability to Canadians, outlining how management of the national historic site will achieve measurable results in support of its mandate.

Indigenous peoples are important partners in the stewardship of heritage places, with connections to the lands and waters since time immemorial. Parks Canada’s Indigenous Stewardship Framework is centered around a vision of protected area management and governance that enables Indigenous stewardship across heritage places administered by Parks Canada. The framework aligns with Indigenous ways of stewarding lands, water and ice, advances reconciliation and supports implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

This plan is not an end in and of itself. Parks Canada will maintain an open dialogue on the implementation of the management plan, to ensure that it remains relevant and meaningful. The plan will serve as the focus for ongoing engagement and, where appropriate, consultation, on the management of Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site in years to come.

2.0 Significance of Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site

The tundra landscape of northern Manitoba around the mouth of the Churchill River has been a home and gathering place for Indigenous peoples for over 4,000 years. The Cree, Dene, Inuit, and later the Métis, all have a long history living along this edge of Hudson Bay. At the time of the fur trade, tensions were high between English and French merchants, and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) selected lands at the mouth of the Churchill River for a fort to protect English interests (Map 1). For the trading post and fort, the river provided access from the interior, the point of land offered a strategic vantage point over Hudson Bay, and ocean access facilitated connections to the North and Europe.

Designated in 1920, the fort became one of the first national historic sites under the administration of Parks Canada. The designation of Prince of Wales Fort as a national historic site commemorates its role in the 18th century English-French rivalry for control of the territory and resources around Hudson Bay. Fundamental to this commemoration is the role of the fur trade and its participants: the HBC “servants” (including voyageurs, labourers, tradespeople, doctors, etc. who were under contract with the Company); the Cree, Dene, Inuit, and Métis who lived and travelled in the area and traded with the HBC; as well as the Company’s French rivals. Additional lands related to HBC’s operation of Prince of Wales Fort - Sloop Cove and Cape Merry Battery - were added to the designation in 1933. The designation acknowledges that Prince of Wales Fort is a ruin of national historic significance and national architectural significance. Related to the fur trade, Prince of Wales Fort has links to national historic sites in southern Manitoba, including The Forks and Lower Fort Garry.

Map 1: Regional setting

Map 1: Regional setting - Text description follows
Map 1: Regional setting — Text version

A map of Manitoba featuring Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site in the northern section of the province just west of Churchill. Wapusk National Park borders Hudson Bay in the northeast, with York Factory located just to the southeast. Riding Mountain National Park is in the southwest, as is Linear Mounds. An inset map depicts Lower Fort Garry and St. Andrew’s Rectory situated northeast of Winnipeg, The Forks in central Winnipeg and Riel House in south Winnipeg. The communities of Churchill, Bird, Gillam, Ilford, York Landing, Thompson, Shamattawa, Oxford House and Norway House are identified. The Churchill, Hayes, Nelson, Red and Assiniboine rivers are marked, as is Lake Winnipeg. The railway between Winnipeg and Churchill is identified, as are major highways.

The present stone fort was constructed over four decades (1730 to 1771) and is a 17th-century Vauban style fortification featuring four diamond-shaped bastions tied together by straight curtain walls. The fort followed on early European explorations of the area in the 1600s and replaced an earlier HBC post (Churchill River Post) that was established in 1717, with the new fort constructed closer to the coast. The HBC intended the stone fort to be an impregnable English stronghold during the English-French struggle for North America during the fur trade era. However, when three French warships arrived for a raid 1782, the fort’s governor, Samual Hearne, realized that the 39 men present at the fort were no match for the French. The fort was quickly surrendered. Following the surrender, the French looted the fort and damaged its defensive capabilities by setting fires and using black powder charges to damage items such as cannon muzzles. While the fort was returned to control of the HBC in 1783, the attack had left it unable to be reoccupied, and it was abandoned in favour of its the former location. The abandoned fort sat in ruins for over 150 years, until the first restoration work began in 1934. Formal archaeology studies to inventory cultural resources at the fort were not initiated until much later, beginning in 1995.

Sloop Cove, approximately three kilometres upriver from the fort, was the wintering site for ships. Sloop Cove is notable as the mooring site for ships and for the signatures of HBC servants who carved their names into the rock at Sloop Cove. Ships from England wintered in the cove as early as 1689. Mooring rings at Sloop Cove and a cart path between the cove and the fort are still visible today.

Cape Merry Battery, which supported defense of the fort, is located across the mouth of the river. During the 1740s two batteries were constructed at Cape Merry. The original battery was deconstructed shortly after it was built because the battery’s cannon could have been turned on the fort. The powder magazine is all that remains today of the first battery. A second, more strategic location was then selected for placing the battery’s six cannons.

The enduring, unspoiled landscape, relatively unchanged on the West Peninsula since before the fort was established, is recognized as part of the site’s historic value. The area is the southern part of the range of polar bears, a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), and important habitat for migratory birds in the spring and summer, including critical stopover habitat for a shorebird called the red knot, which is listed as endangered under SARA.

3.0 Planning context

In this section

The national historic site consists of three distinct areas: Prince of Wales Fort (the fort), Sloop Cove, and Cape Merry Battery (Map 2). The fort and Sloop Cove are located across the Churchill River from the Town of Churchill on what’s called the West Peninsula. Cape Merry Battery is located on the east side of the river, about two kilometres northwest of Churchill.

Northern nature and culture

Churchill, Manitoba offers visitors iconic opportunities to experience the north: polar bears, beluga whales, and northern lights. Churchill is an international destination for wildlife viewing. Most tourists are not drawn to northern Manitoba specifically to learn about forts or the fur trade; however, through the national historic site, visitors have the opportunity to expand their experience in Churchill. Opportunities to come to the Parks Canada visitor centre or visit the national historic site invite people to contemplate the human history of the land, including the cultural connections that Indigenous peoples have to this landscape, the interactions of European explorers and Indigenous peoples, the feat of constructing a fort in the north 300-years ago, and the role of the fur trade in Canada’s early development.

Map 2: Local setting

Map 2: Local setting - Text description follows
Map 2: Local setting — Text version

The site boundary of Prince of Wales Fort is marked in the northwest section of the map, with Sloop Cove marked in the southwest section. Both are bordered by the Churchill River, with tidal flats along the banks. Across the river is the Cape Merry Battery in the centre of the map, with the Town of Churchill, including the Parks Canada Visitor Centre and train station, in the southeast section of the map. The boat launch from the Churchill side of the river and the dock near Prince of Wales Fort are also marked.

Indigenous connections

The human history of the Churchill region dates back more than 4,000 years, from the earliest settlement of Pre-Dorset and Dorset peoples to the use of the area by the Dene, Inuit, and Cree. The presence of multiple major periods in Arctic pre-contact history represented in such a southerly location provides a unique continuous expression of humanity’s adaptation to the northern environment.

Today, these lands are part of Treaty 5 territory. Cree, Dene, Inuit, and Métis communities are connected to Parks Canada and Prince of Wales Fort through their overall connection to these lands, including their interests in other heritage places in the region. Building on relationships with Wapusk National Park, York Factory National Historic Site, and other regional conservation initiatives, including a proposal to establish a National Marine Conservation Area, each of these communities have potential to become more involved with Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. Aligned with Parks Canada’s Framework for History and Commemoration and its Indigenous Stewardship Framework, increased involvement of Indigenous partners, guided by their input, will support the sharing of broad and more inclusive stories about the site and the region.

Five Ininewak (Cree) communities which form Kitaskiinan Kawekanawaynichkatek, “The Land We Want to Protect”, are involved with a proposed Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area on lands south of Churchill, in the area of Wapusk and York Factory. These nations (York Factory First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and Shamattawa First Nation) are also engaged with Parks Canada through The Future of York Factory project.

York Factory First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation have representatives on the Wapusk National Park Management Board, which helps guide the management of the national park. Inuit and Dene communities will also have a future role in the management of Wapusk National Park once the Kivahiktuq agreement has been finalized. The Manitoba Métis Federation has a local in Churchill and has also been involved with Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site, primarily through interests in Wapusk.

Tourism partners

Tourism is a main element of Churchill’s identity and economy, and Parks Canada (for Prince of Wales Fort and Wapusk) is a key contributor to Churchill’s tourism offer.

Tour companies are key partners for Parks Canada in Churchill. Tourism in Churchill is driven by several companies that promote Churchill and operate world-class tours for viewing polar bears, beluga whales, and northern lights. Visitation to the national historic site, in particular the tours to the fort in the summer, is dependent on these tour companies.

Tourism seasons and bear safety

There are three tourism seasons in Churchill: summer beluga whale season, fall polar bear season, and winter aurora season (northern lights). Parks Canada has a role to play in each of these tourism seasons. Bear season in October-November is the busiest season for tourism in Churchill. During bear season, Parks Canada focuses on having team members (bear monitors and interpreters) present at Cape Merry Battery. The summer season allows tour operators to add visits to the fort to their itineraries, and the focus of Parks Canada during the summer shifts to welcoming tours to the fort, providing bear monitors and interpreters. A range of programs over the years have provided high quality visitor experiences while maintaining the character of the relatively undisturbed sub-arctic tundra. Visitor opportunities include retracing the footsteps and cart trails of HBC workers, exploring the fortification, and scanning the waters of Hudson Bay from the fort ramparts to spot beluga whales and polar bears. Tour companies provide the boat transportation to the fort, often in association with tours to watch beluga whales and polar bears.

While tour operators may also have their own interpreters or bear guards, when visiting the fort in the summer or Cape Merry during bear season (October-November) the responsibility for bear management is led by Parks Canada. This provides the greatest clarity for roles and responsibilities and provides the highest level of safety for people and bears.

Access and services

Parks Canada maintains the necessary facilities and services to support visitor access and experiences, such as docks, dredging, washrooms, shelters, and signage.

Visitor access to the fort and Sloop Cove is provided by tour companies and is dependent on the conditions of the Churchill River. While there are occasional opportunities for winter visits to the fort, access to the West Peninsula is generally by boat in the summer. Earlier break-up and later freeze-up of the river due to climate change may lengthen the boating season, which is presently late June to early September. Access by boat is also tide dependant; Sloop Cove and the dock at the fort are only accessible when there is sufficient water.

Unlike Sloop Cove and the fort, Cape Merry Battery is accessible from Churchill year-round (weather permitting). During the busy fall bear season, Parks Canada strives to have heritage presenters and bear guards stationed at Cape Merry. For most of the summer however, Parks Canada team members are only present at Cape Merry Battery when requested by visitors or tour operators, as scheduling allows. Capacity for Parks Canada to offer tours at Cape Merry in the summer is limited by the availability of Parks Canada personnel. Tour companies still bring visitors to Cape Merry during the summer, using their own bear guards and interpreters. Many local residents and independent travelers also visit Cape Merry during the summer months.

The Parks Canada Visitor Centre, located in Churchill’s historic train station, is easily accessible to visitors to Churchill. The visitor centre offers programming, lectures, and exhibits about Prince of Wales Fort, Wapusk and York Factory. Visitors are able to access the stories of each of these heritage places together, including opportunities to learn about northern ecology, Indigenous connections to the land, and the role of the fur trade in Canada’s formative years. Operation of the visitor centre is addressed in more detail in the management plan for Wapusk National Park.

Maintenance of the fortification structures

The 2016 to 2021 Prince of Wales Fort Conservation of Stone Walls project (following an earlier $10 million wall stabilization project that took place 2000 to 2011) represented a $6 million investment to address deterioration of the stone walls and related structural issues. Work included the reconstruction of the entrance to the fort and repointing of the Cape Merry Battery. Considering the seasonal limitations on access to the fort and the high costs of work in the north, this level of extensive maintenance and refurbishment is not sustainable over the long term.

Natural forces and climate change

Natural forces have always played a significant role in shaping northern Canada. Since the retreat of the glaciers around ten thousand years ago, land in the north has been rising or rebounding. The west coast of Hudson Bay is known as one of the more dramatic areas of this action (isostatic rebound), where the land still rises at a rate of one metre per century.

In recent years the effects of climate change, including permafrost thaw, have been seen in the Churchill area and have implications for local tourism. Earlier break-up and later freeze-up of the river due to warmer temperatures may lengthen the summer tourism season, which is presently late June to early September. Earlier break-up and later freeze-up of Hudson Bay may impact polar bears and the timing and length of the fall bear season. In addition, potential changes to conditions such as weather patterns or storm frequency may impact cultural resources, asset management or visitor experiences.

Scoping of planning considerations

The above context for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site was considered and refreshed during the development of this management plan. Initial stages of planning program included an assessment of the site’s commemorative integrity. Through development of the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site State of the Site Assessment and the scoping phase of planning, three main themes that need to be addressed during the implementation of this management plan were identified:

  • collaboration with Indigenous partners
  • sustainable approaches to asset management
  • working with tourism partners and visitors

4.0 Development of the management plan

The process for updating the management plan for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site was initiated in 2019, beginning with the development of the state of the site assessment. In January 2020, letters were sent to Indigenous partners and stakeholders to determine their preferred level of consultation throughout the planning program. Despite initial progress, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel and opportunities to consult.

The planning process was restarted in 2021, and the state of the site assessment was completed in April 2022. To discuss findings from the state of the site report and share more information about the broader management planning process, an “invitation to participate” letter was sent to Indigenous partners and tourism industry stakeholders in the Churchill region.

Parks Canada began work on the scoping exercise in late 2022. Work on the draft management plan began in December 2023.

Early-stage consultations on the draft management plan were initiated with Indigenous partners in January 2024. Other partners and stakeholders received information about consultation on the draft management plan in the spring of 2024. Following opportunities for public participation in May-July, Parks Canada will use this external input to revise the management plan. The final plan is expected to be tabled in Parliament in late 2024 or early 2025.

A What We Heard report that summarizes input from the consultation process will be available on Parks Canada’s web site for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site.

5.0 Vision

In updating the vision for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site, Parks Canada considers the site’s role among Canada's rich tapestry of heritage places and its contributions to the iconic Churchill area over the next 15 years. The vision ignites inspiration and charts a course for decision-makers. This vision honours the past and the future to create a legacy for sharing stories that weave together multiple perspectives on history, culture and nature.

Rising from the coastal tundra where the Churchill River meets the Hudson Bay, Prince of Wales Fort stands as a testament to human determination. Visitors to Churchill are wowed by the world-class experiences of seeing polar bears, beluga whales, northern lights and other wonders of the north. The national historic site offers additional opportunities for people to engage with the area’s rich natural and cultural history. Spending time at the fort or Cape Merry Battery, touching the stone walls and the cannons, invites visitors to reflect on the connections between people and the environment, the role of historic structures in sharing stories, and the relationships of allies and rivals during the fur trade in the 18th century.

To plant your feet on the same unchanged bedrock as the people who came and went from Prince of Wales Fort 300 years ago, including those who etched their names in the rocks at Sloop Cove, is a compelling connection to the past. Visitors pause in their schedule to contemplate how the enduring, arctic landscape remains relatively unchanged on the West Peninsula.

Whether driving to Cape Merry, taking a boat to the fort or Sloop Cove, or learning about the site virtually, those exploring the national historic site receive impactful messages that convey the essence of the fort's setting, history, and cultural significance, as well as its future. The area’s 4,000 years of human history and the site’s location in Treaty 5 territory provide important context for understanding Prince of Wales Fort. The ties of Cree, Dene, Inuit, and Métis people to the lands, waters, ice and animals around Hudson Bay add to the northern experience.

As part of the fabric of the community of Churchill and its tourism offer, Parks Canada plays a role in conservation and education that is evident to locals and tourists alike. Coordinating messaging with Wapusk National Park and York Factory National Historic Site, Parks Canada’s Visitor Centre in Churchill is a focal point of the town. Collaboration remains a cornerstone of the vision for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. Invaluable contributions of Indigenous partners, tourism stakeholders, and the local community, guided by evolving demands and creative ways of working together, support Parks Canada in maximizing use of the site in ways that are efficient and sustainable.

While Churchill is famous as a destination for experiencing the natural treasures of Manitoba’s north, Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site adds the opportunity to mix outdoor adventure with national history and local culture, inspiring present and future generations to appreciate and cherish this vital piece of Canada's heritage.

6.0 Key strategies

In this section

As a long-term strategic plan following the Government of Canada’s approach for results-based planning, the management plan for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site focuses on the results that Parks Canada wants to achieve. The purpose of the management plan is to provide decision-makers, partners, stakeholders, and the public with the priorities that will guide decision making.

Where no specific timelines are given, all targets are meant to be achieved within the ten-year life of this plan. Unless otherwise specified, targets will be measured against a 2019 (pre-COVID) baseline. The directions identified in this section consider available resources and existing capacity for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site.

Actions and reporting

Decisions on how to reach the objectives and targets identified in this plan are supported by ongoing work planning, in consultation with partners, stakeholders, and the public as appropriate. Over the plan’s ten-year timeframe, this approach allows for flexibility to account for available resources, evolving priorities and emerging opportunities. Informing Indigenous partners, community members, business partners, stakeholders and Canadians about how ongoing decisions fit with the strategies in this management plan is done through annual reporting and other communications. Figure 1 shows how the elements of results-based planning work together to support the long-term vision and to keep interested parties informed about management of the national historic site.

Figure 1: The elements of results-based planning

Figure 1: The elements of results-based planning - Text description follows
Figure 1: The elements of results-based planning — Text version

A flow chart showing the process for results-based planning. Each planning element is shown in a downward facing arrow, along with a brief description. The top row is ‘Vision’. This element describes the future state, setting strategic direction. The second row is ‘Key Strategies’. This element describes the areas of focus, introducing management approaches. The third row is ‘Objectives’. This element identifies management priorities, indicating desired results. The fourth row is ‘Targets’. This element defines timing and degree of change, tracking what is feasible and measurable. The bottom row, ‘Reporting’, is separated from the other planning elements. It communicates plan implementation, connecting actions to the strategic direction.

National policies

In addition to the key strategies, objectives and targets identified in this management plan, decision-making for the site is guided by Government of Canada and Parks Canada policies that provide direction on overarching issues. This includes policies and guideline that address the conservation of historic places and cultural resource management (such as Parks Canada’s Framework for History and Commemoration and its Indigenous Stewardship Framework) and includes national policy direction related to sustainability and accessibility.

Across the national network of heritage places administered by Parks Canada, Parks Canada is committed to sustainability (for example, the Greening Government Strategy), equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (for example, meeting the requirements of the Accessible Canada Act). Within the area of sustainable operations, climate change is expected to be a growing influence on the management of heritage places, including Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. Impacts of climate change will be considered and integrated in all aspects of planning, management, and reporting.

Ensuring all heritage places administered by Parks Canada are well operated, and are welcoming places for all, is an ongoing consideration for Parks Canada throughout the implementation of this management plan. Specific to management direction for Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site for the duration of this management plan, three key strategies have been developed.

Key strategy 1

Working with partners to present stories and build community

The focus of this key strategy is maintaining and building strategic relationships, including with Indigenous partners and tour companies. Collaboration offers the best opportunities for Parks Canada to advance its objectives for broadening the stories shared about the national historic site, conserving cultural and natural resources, and supporting the needs of visitors, tourism businesses, and the Town of Churchill. This strategy ensures that partners and stakeholders have ample opportunities to share their perspectives on the site’s history and on the potential contributions of the site for conservation, visitation, outreach, and education.

In addition to activities at the national historic site’s locations (the fort, Sloop Cove, and Cape Merry Battery) programming and outreach related to Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site are provided at the visitor centre in Churchill. Off-site support and outreach are important opportunities to extend the reach of the national historic site to visitors to Churchill who may not be able to physically visit the site local audiences, and those who wish to learn more about the site from afar. These supports and outreach include blogs, interviews, photo galleries and video. Through these channels, considering internal and external opportunities, visitors are able to access a wide array of information about the site from anywhere in the world.

Consistent with Parks Canada’s guidance on history, commemoration, and Indigenous stewardship, the participation of Indigenous partners in the development and delivery of programs, exhibits and events that share and celebrate their stories and cultures is a priority. The focus is developing stronger, more meaningful relationships, at the community level and nation-to-nation.

Objective 1.1

Through stronger connections with Indigenous partners, Indigenous-led content in the site’s materials and programs is increased.

  • Engagement with Indigenous communities about their interests and opportunities for sharing Indigenous perspectives is increased
  • The number of materials and programs that include Indigenous perspectives is increased, including in-person programming (heritage presentations) that is delivered with or by members of Indigenous communities
  • Opportunities for members of Indigenous communities to take part in on-site visitor, research and cultural activities, including archaeology programs, are continued and increased where appropriate
  • When developing the next state of the site report, indicators related to Indigenous relations will be assessed in collaboration with Indigenous partners

Objective 1.2

Strong relationships with tour companies and other organizations operating in Churchill are maintained.

  • Collaboration with local tour operators to offer meaningful and innovative visitor experiences, including boat transportation to the fort, will be maintained
  • Opportunities to increase local understanding and enjoyment of the site through school programs and special events in the community will be maintained.
  • Where consistent with the conservation of cultural resources and compatible with site operations new visitor opportunities developed and delivered by private tour operators or Indigenous groups will be evaluated and supported

Key strategy 2

Conserving cultural and natural heritage

The focus of this key strategy is ensuring cultural resources and the landscape associated with the national historic site are maintained to provide future generations with an authentic connection to the stories associated with Prince of Wales Fort. Cultural resources include built structures, archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, and historic objects, as well as knowledge and traditions. Initiatives supporting this strategy focus on identifying the site’s cultural resources, understanding their significance from Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives, caring for them respectfully, and presenting them in ways that are accessible and engaging. Implementation of related projects is supported by policies, guidelines, protocols, and training, including the involvement of Parks Canada specialists in history, archaeology and restoration. This includes undertaking project-specific impact assessments where appropriate.

Maintaining historic structures is a costly undertaking. Conservation of cultural resources such as fort walls must balance what is necessary for sharing a place’s stories against ideal or indefinite restoration. Parks Canada’s approach to long-term asset management seeks to extend the usable life of a resource, minimize impacts to environmental and cultural resources, optimize previous investments, and balance multiple perspectives. The strategic direction outlined in this management plan is considered during ongoing monitoring and investment planning. The integrity of the fort walls as a cultural resource, able to connect visitors with the essence of the site’s stories, can be maintained even as the stone walls show signs of ruin (as they were in 1782 after the French attack on the fort), without being maintained as a restoration of the original fort.

The natural environment around the site is also relevant to the story of Prince of Wales Fort, and of high interest to partners and visitors. In collaboration with partners, Parks Canada monitors vegetation, habitat and animals around the site to better understand the regional environment, including the effects of climate change on natural and cultural resources. In addition to the area’s high-profile species, beluga whales and polar bears, the site provides important habitat for migratory birds, including coastal stopover habitat for an endangered shorebird called the Red Knot. Related to the implementation of the Species at Risk Act, Parks Canada will continue its collaboration with recovery teams and other partners in support of species at risk. The presence of federal lands administered by Parks Canada around Churchill provides Parks Canada and other organizations with opportunities to carry out research along this part of the Hudson Bay coast. The audience that can become informed about and engaged in related research is expanded because of people’s connection to the national historic site.

Objective 2.1

The condition of cultural resources is managed so that commemorative integrity and safe, meaningful experiences are maintained.

  • As facilitated through protocols with Indigenous partners, the site’s inventory of cultural resources related to Indigenous use of the land outside the fort is increased, including improved incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous languages
  • Through vegetation management, routine maintenance, and monitoring, the integrity of cultural resources is maintained
  • In the next state of the site assessment, the condition rating of the cultural resources indicator for buildings and engineering works is maintained as fair
  • The information available on climate-related risks and potential adaptation options is increased

Key strategy 3

Supporting safe and meaningful visitor experiences

This key strategy focuses on connecting people with the cultural heritage related to Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. The objectives help define Parks Canada’s role in providing services and facilities that support enriching experiences for those who visit the site. The strategy addresses how both contemporary infrastructure and cultural assets support visitor experiences.

Parks Canada and partners in Churchill’s tourism and culture sectors work together to assess and shape sustainable approaches to visitation at the fort, Sloop Cove and Cape Merry Battery, sharing priorities and ensuring efficient use of resources. In addition to those who visit the site, outreach and education through Parks Canada’s urban programs, web pages and social media, including videos, blogs and other virtual tools, are also used to share stories and raise awareness about the opportunities around Churchill to appreciate nature, culture and history. Marketing the national historic site outside of Churchill is addressed by the tour companies. As visitation through tour operators returns to pre-COVID levels, attracting new markets or developing new offers are not priority targets for Parks Canada. The management focus is supporting the existing and evolving tourism markets related to wildlife viewing and northern experiences.

The 2016 to 2021 Prince of Wales Fort Conservation of Stone Walls project (following an earlier $10 million wall stabilization project that took place 2000 to 2011) represented a $6 million investment to address deterioration of the stone walls and related structural issues. Work included the reconstruction of the entrance to the fort and repointing of the Cape Merry Battery, putting the site in a position where positive and safe visitor experiences can be supported without a similar scale of investment during the life of this plan.

Objective 3.1

Visitor facilities provide for safe and meaningful experiences that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, identities and interests.

  • In the next state of the site assessment the rating of the built assets indicator for presentations (including interpretive materials) improves from poor to good
  • In the next state of the site assessment, the rating of the built assets indicator for buildings (including kiosks and washrooms) improves from fair to good
  • High-quality exhibits, presentations, and services at the visitor centre are maintained and improved where necessary
  • The ability of Parks Canada to collect information related to visitor satisfaction is improved

Objective 3.2

While looking towards the sustainability of investments, fortification structures provide for safe and inspiring experiences.

  • The understanding of priority locations for strategic maintenance work, such as vegetation control, drainage and repointing of mortar, is increased
  • The experience of accessing the upper level of the fort ramparts for views of the surrounding landscape is maintained
  • Stability of the fort walls is monitored and managed with respect to providing safe visitor circulation within the fort

7.0 Management areas

In this section

For additional clarity in support of the vision and key strategies presented in the management plan, this section describes the core visitor offer at each of the site’s three distinct locations.

As described in the key strategy about working with partners (Objective 1.2), Parks Canada is open to collaborating with partners that may wish to offer appropriate visitor activities or events at Cape Merry, the fort, or Sloop Cove. Proposed activities, aligned with the vision for the national historic site, would require that the proponent manage their own logistics and expenses for required services.

In addition to the management areas included below, the visitor centre in Churchill is a central part of the tourism experience in Churchill. At the visitor centre Parks Canada provides information about tours, programs, events, and bear safety, as well as presenting exhibits about Manitoba’s north (including Wapusk, York Factory and Prince of Wales Fort). Operation of the visitor centre is addressed in more detail in the management plan for Wapusk National Park.

7.1 Cape Merry Battery

Unlike the fort and Sloop Cove, Cape Merry Battery is accessible by road. This portion of the national historic site is about three kilometres from town, accessible by a gravel road maintained by the Town of Churchill. This different level of access means that tourists and locals can come to Cape Merry independently, without tour guides or members of the Parks Canada team. Although Cape Merry is not far from town, due to the risks of encountering polar bears it is recommended that people travel to Cape Merry by vehicle and with appropriate bear protection. Communications about bear-safe practices are promoted by many organizations in Churchill, including by Parks Canada at the visitor centre.

Core offer

During the high season for polar bear tourism, in October and November, Parks Canada bear monitors and heritage presenters support safe and meaningful experiences at Cape Merry Battery.

7.2 Prince of Wales Fort

The fort is the main attraction on the West Peninsula, providing a destination for tour operators and their clients during the summer whale-watching season. Local tourism operators facilitate bookings and provide transportation to the Fort. On rare occasions events or programs may be organized in the winter.

Core offer

During the summer season, Parks Canada bear monitors and heritage presenters support safe and meaningful experiences at Prince of Wales Fort.

7.3 Sloop Cove

Of the three distinct areas of the national historic site, Sloop Cove has the fewest visitors and has no visitor facilities. While the opportunity exists for visitors to hike approximately 3 kilometres from Sloop Cove to the fort, caution is required related to the disturbance of birds and polar bears.

Core offer

At Sloop Cove Parks Canada has no offer of visitor activities; the focus at Sloop Cove is limited to conservation of the area as part of the national historic site’s cultural resources.

8.0 Implementation and reporting

Management plans act as a guide for decision making, work planning, monitoring, and ongoing engagement. To ensure the plan remains relevant and meaningful, Parks Canada evaluates how its decisions and projects support the strategic direction presented in the management plan and will provide updates on the progress of the plan’s implementation through communications with partners, stakeholders, and Canadians.

Date modified :