Parks Canada

Free admission day at Fort Malden this Saturday

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada is offering free admission this Saturday.

According to a news release sent out by Parks Canada, it states the federal government “celebrating families and the importance of our protected areas with free admission to Parks Canada’s places for youth 17 and under, starting in 2018 and beyond.”

Parks Canada states that  is also pleased to offer free admission or lockage for one day at Parks Canada’s places across the country this year, noting this is a special thank you to the millions of Canadians who celebrated Canada 150 with Parks Canada in 2017 when more Canadians than ever before had amazing experiences at Parks Canada’s places.”

Free admission day is site-specific and the date is determined by each national park or historic site. It is important to note that only admission is free on free admission day. Fees for recreational services and goods such as camping and firewood, boat launches, transportation, or special tours remain.

Fort Malden has determined its free admission day will be Saturday during the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival. However, a special event during the evening will still require an admission charge.

Activities will include musket demonstrations, noon day gun, a tactical artillery demonstration, and a Marquee Escape room. Later in the day, starting at 5:30 p.m., Fort Malden will host a Murder Mystery event. A special fee of $12.10 will be charged for this presentation.

For a complete list or dates for each national park or national historic site please visit Parks Canada’s website.

“National parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas represent the very best that Canada has to offer. They and tell the stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contributions of Indigenous peoples. Fort Malden National Historic Site is a national treasure, and on Free Admission Day, I invite Canadian families, youth, and visitors to our country to explore it and connect with Canada’s nature and history,” stated Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

Town receives $100,000 grant for Belle Vue roof


By RTT Staff

The Town of Amherstburg will be receiving funding of up to $100,000 from Parks Canada towards the conservation of Belle Vue National Historic Site of Canada.

The town stated the funds, which come from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places, are slated for Belle Vue’s roof restoration.

An employee from Robertson Restoration works on the roof at Belle Vue. (Photo by Paul Hertel/Belle Vue Conservancy)

The town announced the grant via a press release issued Tuesday morning.

Robertson Restoration was awarded the tender bid and has begun the refurbishment. The house dates back to 1816 with the roof made of copper and cedar shingles.

The roof project is estimated at $283,400 which includes architectural consultation and drawings.

The remainder of funds have been raised by the Belle Vue Conservancy. For more information on that group, visit

“Belle Vue is an important symbol of Canada’s identity and traditions, says CAO John Miceli. “Conserving this treasured place benefits not only the immediate community, but all Canadians.”


Escape Room Festival coming to Fort Malden this Saturday



By Ron Giofu


Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada is hosting its first-ever Escape Room Festival this Saturday.

Fort Malden and Parks Canada want to know “Are you the sharpest tool in the shed? When the clock is ticking, can you decipher the clues to solve the puzzles and escape in time? Can you escape from one room? Can you escape from five?!”

Escape rooms are described on Fort Malden’s website as “a physical and mental adventure game” where “players must solve a time-limited series of challenging puzzles and riddles to escape the room. Players must escape the room before time runs out – and time matters!”

Those up to the challenge of solving multiple escape rooms can go to Fort Malden between 10 a.m.-8 p.m. with the cost being $34.50 per person for five escape room experiences. It is an all ages event.

Teams of six will have 15 minutes to solve the clues and escape the room.

Participants will have the opportunity to win door prizes and vote for the People’s Choice Award for “Best of the Festival.”

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada is holding an Escape Room Festival June 16. (Photo courtesy of Fort Malden’s website)

Mobile escape rooms from across Windsor-Essex County will be at Fort Malden and the public is invited to bring friends and solve as many of the escape rooms as they can.

Advanced registration is underway and to register, please phone Fort Malden National Historic Site at 519-736-5416. You will be asked to select your top five escape rooms and Parks Canada states that teams of two to six are asked to register together.

Staff will do their best to match the public with their selections.

There are a limited number of spots available, first come, first served.

Escape rooms include “Confined to the Barracks (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site), “Cottage Fever” (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site), “Disarm the Bomb” (presented by Hidden Trail Escape Room), “Legend of Hocus” (presented by Breakout Kingsville), “Recipe for Escape” (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site), “Skullduggery in the Scullery” (presented by Exodus Windsor Escape Rooms), “The Cell” (presented by Hidden Trail Escape Room) and “The General’s Last Word” (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site).

Local food trucks will be on hand as well while The Friends of Fort Malden will be presenting a “beer garden” to visitors that are 19 years of age or older.

There will also be musical entertainment by Rob Bondy and Endadaday, Allison Brown, Sara Fontaine and Hogarth, Hoppe & Borshuk with guest Phil Kasurak.

For more information, call Fort Malden National Historic Site at 519-736-5416, e-mail or visit

First Baptist Church receives national designation



By Ron Giofu


A local church has received federal designation as a place of “National Historic Significance” on the weekend.

First Baptist Church, located at 232 George St., received the designation as part of a commemoration ceremony Saturday morning at the 148-year-old church. Representatives from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada were on hand for the designation and plaque unveiling, held in front of a crowd of about 100 people.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, Rev. Ron Watson, Rev. Albert Lambkin and Dr. Barbara Hugh Smith stand with the plaque designating First Baptist Church as a place of “national historic significance.”

Eric Nielsen, Parks Canada’s manager of external relations for southwestern Ontario, said while it is Canada 150, it is also the 100th anniversary of Canada’s first national historic site. The recommendations, such as the successful one for First Baptist Church, are left for the federal government to decide, he added.

“It’s not just special to you,” Nielsen said of the ceremony. “It’s special to all Canadians.”

First Baptist Church is described by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as being “a principal Underground Railroad-related Black church in Upper Canada. Strategically located near the United States border, it offered sanctuary to African Americans fleeing slavery.”

The church was constructed in 1848-49 and “was a spiritual home for thousands of Black Baptists and it helped foster the development of a distinctive Black Baptist church tradition in Ontario. As the Mother Church of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, it played a crucial role in the development of Black communities and identity in Ontario.”

The church was built under the leadership of Pastor Anthony Binga Sr., who travelled around the area raising funds for its construction. Baptists had formerly met in local homes before deciding to build their own place of worship.

Julie Dompierre represented the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and said they were proud to welcome First Baptist Church as a place of “National Historic Significance.” She noted the town’s place as a spot where slaves seeking freedom came to and built a new life.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi accepts another plaque from the Town of Amherstburg, which was represented by Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

“Amherstburg First Baptist Church is one of the most historically significant churches in Canada,” said Dompierre, who repeated the line for the crowd.

Dompierre said the “simple, compact auditory church” was one where Pastor Binga preached inclusiveness and the desire to build a better life and country.

“The legacy of this church is one of hope,” she added.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he is very familiar with the church and also presented a plaque to the church from the town.

“I strongly believe in this church,” said DiPasquale. “It’s pretty old. There are significant parts that had to be re-done. It may need help down the road.”

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi said the church “has been through many ups and downs” including a flood in 2011 that caused the town to shut it down.

“Because of the flood, we lost members of our church but we have some left,” said Afolabi.

While there have been challenges, the church’s members have seen it through and the church re-opened. However, Afolabi said there is still work to be done including further interior renovations which, in part, include a new water heater and washrooms which need “a total makeover.”

“We are undaunted,” said Afolabi. “We see our church as victorious in the midst of strife.”

Rev. Ron Watson represented the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec and praised Pastor Afolabi and his wife Abiola for their work. He read an address from executive minister Rev. Tim McCoy which stated “Canada’s DNA was born in little churches like this and in little town’s like this.” Rev. Albert Lambkin, moderator of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, said “this Mother Church has been through some pain and agony” but is on the way back.

Lambkin added many pastors have been through the building and also praised the Afolabis for their efforts in helping to start restoration work.

Dr. Barbara Hugh Smith, the great grand-niece of Pastor Anthony Binga Sr., said she was thankful that the plaque dedication ceremony finally came to fruition. She recalled first being notified of the possibility in 2005. She said she was thankful Binga didn’t rest and said she was similarly thankful the Afolabis didn’t rest either.

“I’m proud of him for what he did for the community,” Hugh Smith said of Binga.

The ceremony also saw numerous other ministers and priests from local churches attend. A reception followed at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

Feds to invest almost $1.2 million to revitalize Fort Malden National Historic Site


By Ron Giofu


Visitors to Fort Malden National Historic Site got a glimpse of over 2,000 years of military history over the weekend but the Fort itself will soon have its own history re-invested in.

Fort Malden will be receiving almost $1.2 million to reinvest in the fort’s heritage structures and visitor facilities. According to Elizabeth LeBlanc, public relations and communications officer for Parks Canada’s southwestern Ontario field unit, the investments “will protect our heritage and strengthen their appeal as destinations to celebrate our nation’s achievements.”

Work should start next year, she indicated.

The gun crew from the 34th regiment fire the cannon as part of Military Heritage Days at Fort Malden Sunday afternoon.

The gun crew from the 34th regiment fire the cannon as part of Military Heritage Days at Fort Malden Sunday afternoon.

“Starting in 2017, we are going to do an assessment of the site,” said LeBlanc.

Exteriors of buildings, windows, pathways, and lighting will be part of the assessment process in order to see what opportunities there are to reinvest and restore the historical site. Actual construction and renovations would occur in 2018 during off-peak times, she added.

LeBlanc said the money is coming through the Federal Infrastructure and Investment program.

It is not the first investment in Fort Malden in recent years, LeBlanc added, as $815,000 was invested in order to add to structures on the site in order that storage of materials could be accommodated better. There was also additional office space created, she said.

Military Heritage Days saw a bit of a different layout this year, she noted, as Fort Malden staff moved artillery and weapons demonstrations to the southern portion of the grounds, along the Detroit River. The new layout helped accommodate a “Seneca run,” an obstacle-course type of event where participants also fired muskets as part of it. People could also get a “birds-eye” view from one of the bastions onto the range.

Re-enactors with the 34th Regiment fire during a mock battle Sunday afternoon.

Re-enactors with the 34th Regiment fire during a mock battle Sunday afternoon.

“They changed it up a bit this year,” said LeBlanc.

The parade square was geared towards youth activities and attractions for younger age groups.

In addition to the grounds and buildings themselves, Fort Malden has also revitalized its programming, LeBlanc noted. A theatrical production was held last month with another planned for Aug. 19-20, the latter one to feature the story of the rebellion.

“It’s a great way to get this amazing story out to people,” said LeBlanc.

Roman re-enactor Joe Perz places a chainmail vest onto Elijah Morin during Military Heritage Days.

Roman re-enactor Joe Perz places a chainmail vest onto Elijah Morin during Military Heritage Days.

A murder mystery was held Saturday night and an “escape room” will be held Aug. 6 and Aug. 13 to allow people to decipher riddles and escape from a soldier’s barrack. There is also a day camp for youth planned for Aug. 8-12 as well.

“Hopefully there is something for everyone,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc added the programming team at Fort Malden is also looking at additional events for the fall months.

For further information on the new programs, call 519-736-5416 or visit

To see additional photos from the July 30-31 Military Heritage Days, please visit our our Facebook album.