Since May 2017, a large, brightly coloured billboard heralding the longitudinal centre of Canada has towered alongside the Trans-Canada Highway. A project in the making for several years, the Centre of Canada park will complete its first phase of construction this summer. The idea was spearheaded by volunteers from the Taché area, one of whom is Yolande Dupuis.
The new symbolic landmark is difficult to miss. The geographic centre of Canada is located in Manitoba. Until recently, travelers still had to squint at the two lacklustre Trans-Canada road signs to learn this interesting fact. “People would stop on the side of the road to take a picture, but it wasn't safe,” says Yolande Dupuis, who has lived near the "heart of Canada" for the past 39 years.
The Taché resident, who has been involved in this initiative to develop a visitor site for tourists and through-travellers since 2006, is delighted to see the first phase of the project take shape, 11 years later. “We wanted to have something to mark the centre of Canada. For the past several months, we’ve been meeting with the other nine volunteers to move this project forward.”
The preliminary phase was completed thanks to donations from various provincial and federal organizations (1), including the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (CDEM), which contributed $3,000. A total of $30,000 was required to fund this first phase.
Today, visitors can pull into a parking lot to take a selfie in front of the billboard, surrounded by grass and three maple leaf flags: two atop flagpoles and another in a flowerbed. “We have all travelled across Canada and the United States. It's important to to have a rest stop where kids can get out and run around.” Aware of the site’s potential, Yolande Dupuis is excited about the upcoming Canada Games in Winnipeg. “We hope to attract Canada Games tourists, which could also help boost tourism in the RM of Taché."
Building on an initiative started by the former National La Vérendrye Monument Society, the idea was taken up by the RM of Taché, which acquired the 20-acre (8‑hectare) lot. “At the time, we expected the budget would be around $20 million.”
While the vision of creating a visitor centre around a commemorative park has not been shelved, it will require more time than originally estimated to become a reality. “The project will progress as we raise the funds. The potential arrival of businesses will allow the Centre of Canada to be self-sufficient.” Those prospects may have developed by the time of the site's grand opening on August 17.
(1) Other donations: $19,000 from the Tourism Development Fund, $9,000 from the Community Development Corporation of Lorette, $1,000 from Caisse Financial Group, along with another $10,000 in-kind donations from the RM of Taché for infrastructure, tree donations from Manitoba Hydro, as well as sign design assistance from Travel Manitoba.