What's New in Public Relations

October 24, 2011

The Rideau Canal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carlie @ 2:43 am

During the summer of 2007, The Rideau Canal, a 202km long waterway stretching from Ottawa to Kingston, ON, earned the designation of World Heritage Site. UNESCO presents this certification to sites that “belong to all the peoples of the world irrespective of the territory on which they are located”. The Rideau Canal is the only World Heritage Site in Ontario and one of only fifteen in Canada. This same summer, the Canal celebrated its 175th anniversary as well.


The Canal has survived now for almost 180 years. Constructed between 1826 and 1832, it was meant originally for military use – in the case of a second attack from American military, it would provide a safe means of travel for British soldiers defending what was then Upper Canada. It has withstood the conversion from military use to commercial vessels to pleasure craft, its main use today. During the Great Depression, many felt that shutting the Canal would be an effective cost-saving strategy; during the 1960s it was controlled by Transport Canada who felt that it was necessary to change the manual style locks to hydraulic, a move that could have had huge repercussions.


Although it has overcome many obstacles to survive this long, the Canal is now facing a new challenge that may be more difficult to beat – a public relations dilemma. Canal users, as well as those who live near and have other connections with the Canal, have complaints about the upkeep and maintenance of the historic waterway. And after the Canal’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these complaints could have a greater impact than just reduced boat traffic during the navigation season.


Part of the rules for the designation is that its sites must maintain a certain level of upkeep or the designation can be taken away. If this were to happen with the Rideau canal, especially so soon after it earned the designation, it would have an even worse impact on the Canal’s public relations.


The superintendent of the Rideau Canal for Parks Canada has spoken out about the complaints and rumours that boaters and others are hearing. He specifically addressed the many repairs needed to different lock stations and the story that the Canal will have a shorter navigation season next year and/or shorter hours when speaking with the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. This was a great first step for Parks to take the tackle the public relations problems that they’re facing.  Hopefully we’ll now be able to see concrete steps being taken to preserve and protect the amazing piece of history that Eastern Ontario has in its backyard!


What do you think about heritage conservation and the Rideau Canal waterway? How do you feel that heritage sites can create or use good public relations?


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