THUNDER BAY, ONT. — More than $20 million that was spent on remedial flood protection couldn’t prepare Fort William Historical Park from the record-breaking flood water that enveloped the entire site this month. Heavy precipitation combined with the spring melt has caused the Kaministiquia River to spill over its banks. The water has since receded and cleanup has begun.
But the park won’t be ready as a destination point in time to host visitors from the Viking Octantus Cruise ship that is expected to arrive on May 27.
Paul Pepe, manager of Tourism Thunder Bay, said not all is lost.
“Viking has already taken Fort William Historical Park off its itinerary for this visit and it will be added back on for later visits,” he said.
The park remains closed to the public at this time and all farm animals have been safely relocated to higher ground.
“We have assessed the entire site and the impacts were less than anticipated with limited damage, given the water levels,” said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries in a statement to The Chronicle-Journal.
“In our communications with the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority and Ontario Power Generation, they indicated that recent flows were some of the highest on record.”
The statement said the park is working closely with regulatory authorities to continue to monitor water levels across the region’s watershed. They include the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority and Ontario Power Generation, which operates two hydroelectric generating stations on the Kaministiquia River.
Inflows to the Kam River from area lakes and subsidiary waterways like the Matawin, Whitefish and Slate Rivers have contributed to the excessive amount of water coming through the system.
“Park employees are now on-site completing the necessary cleanup for the park to reopen,” read the statement from the ministry. “The entire historic site and all buildings are accessible and cleanup activities are well underway.”
As a result, we expect to be able to welcome back visitors, including cruise ship passengers, very soon.”
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal