Town of Maple Creek
2019 Prince of Wales Prize
The 2019 Prince of Wales Prize recognizes the Town of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan for its long track record of effective revitalization and demonstrated results in bringing heritage to life through exemplary municipal heritage conservation. Settled about 1882, the Town of Maple Creek is a small community with a population of 2,500 and a long agricultural history. In fact, Maple Creek is where the very first shipment of cattle from western Canada was loaded on the rails to market in 1884. Thereafter, the community earned the moniker “The Old Cowtown of Maple Creek,” forever linking it to the story of its establishment.
Since 1926, with the establishment of the community’s first historical society, Maple Creek has developed a strong tradition of conserving and celebrating its rich and diverse living heritage, both tangible and intangible. This is reflected not only in the town’s long-standing cooperative relationship with the Nekaneet Band, the local First Nation, but also in the town’s long-term commitment to heritage conservation embedded in its Official Community Plan, its Municipal Strategic Plan, and its formal conservation and revitalization plan for the community’s historic downtown core.
In the late 1980s, the local built heritage conservation movement was initiated when the first Landmark heritage building was saved from demolition. The movement subsequently gained momentum, and as a result the community saw its last significant commercial heritage building demolition in 1992 – over a quarter of a century ago. Since then, the small Saskatchewan community has embraced heritage conservation as a core value of the community, using its heritage and heritage resources as a central element of its revitalization and sustainability efforts.
But the town’s momentum didn’t stop there. In 2008, Maple Creek led the charge in local government reform, establishing a Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, and in 2011, Maple Creek was selected as one of four pilot communities for the Province of Saskatchewan’s Main Street Saskatchewan program. The Main Street program has also served to develop both the cultural and economic potential of the community, employing local trades people and providing training opportunities to students in the Architectural Technologies programme at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Maple Creek was the first formally recognized heritage district in a rural community in Saskatchewan, and the second formally recognized heritage district in the Province. Maple Creek’s Heritage District plays a continued role as the community’s business core, and through the daily use of its heritage buildings and other resources, the district is the exemplification of the Town’s motto, “Where Past is Present.”
The town is also one of the few municipalities in the province – and the first in rural Saskatchewan – that provides a property tax incentive to encourage private investment in heritage building rehabilitation. This commitment to heritage conservation has helped the community diversify its economy, including a new tourism industry. It has inspired people to move to the community and has attracted new businesses, including retail and food and beverage businesses. The town is also host to numerous activities and cultural festivals, like the Maple Creek Heritage Festival, which have also contributed to new investment and job creation.
Between 2011 and 2015 visitation to the Cypress Hills Destination Area (approximately 10 minutes north of Maple Creek) increased by 80,000 visitors. This is largely due to the new businesses that have been inspired to open in Maple Creek, as well as the increased cultural activity that the Maple Creek Main Street Program has encouraged within the community.
Downtown merchants and the community-at-large have embraced the philosophy of heritage-led rejuvenation as they witness the many positive changes the town’s Main Street program has brought to their historic downtown. What stands out most, however, is the way the formal plan has inspired local citizens and landowners to initiate their own projects. The Town has developed a culture of heritage that has become part of the community’s identity and pride, further validating its commitment to safeguarding a part of Saskatchewan’s story as a legacy for future generations.
The Town of Maple Creek has successfully implemented several municipal planning, regulatory and financial tools designed to safeguard and promote its historic places for community benefit, demonstrating exemplary stewardship of built heritage in the Province. It has become a model for heritage-led community development in small communities, serving as the provincial flagship for heritage conservation. The town clearly recognizes the connection between heritage conservation and economic and tourism development.
The 2019 Prince of Wales Prize recognizes the Town of Maple Creek for its sustained commitment to heritage conservation over time, seen in the high level of broad community engagement, its committed leadership, and the quality of its environment.