Group petitions cuts limiting visits to historic home site

Nearly 5,000 people have signed petitions asking Ottawa to review its decision to cut programs at the Motherwell Homestead national historic site in Saskatchewan.

The site near Abernethy is the home of the country’s first agriculture minister and features demonstrations of how agriculture was practiced in W.R. Motherwell’s time. Costumed interpreters used cattle, horses, poultry and other livestock, as well as early implements, to show people how things used to be done.

However, Parks Canada cut the living history program in budget announcements earlier this year. As of 2013, the site will operate as a static display.

Jakki Stephenson, secretary of the Friends of the Motherwell Homestead Inc., said that isn’t good enough to honour an agricultural figure of such importance.

“We feel it’s very important to try to preserve his memory in a way that’s fitting,” she said.

She said the Friends group has been told the site will be self-guided and open only three days per week during late May and June. However, those three days will be during the week and not weekends.

“That’s not much fun for families,” Stephenson observed.

The site will be open full-time from July to mid-September.

Children’s day camps at the site were over-subscribed but will no longer be offered and any school tours that visit the site will be left to wander on their own.

The cuts also mean that seven seasonal and four full-time staff will be reduced to five summer positions.

The Friends will continue to operate its café and gift shop.

Stephenson and other group members presented the petitions to Wascana Liberal MP Ralph Goodale Nov. 12 and have others they will give to House of Commons speaker Andrew Scheer, who is the Conservative MP that represents the riding where Motherwell is located.

The petitions are to be presented in the House over several weeks.

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