News Local

Fossil Discovery Centre boasts record year

Lauren MacGill

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre staff are looking forward to 2018. (LAUREN MACGILL, Morden Times)

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre staff are looking forward to 2018. (LAUREN MACGILL, Morden Times)

MORDEN - 

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre saw another record year in 2017 with a significant increase in visitation.

Visitation rose to nearly 13,000 people, a 7 per cent increase from 2016 and double the attendance of 2013.

Executive director Peter Cantelon said the increase is encouraging to see, especially in today’s environment. “Museums and art organizations have struggled, not just provincially or nationally but globally,” he said. “We’re in a more restrained funding environment. People are not necessarily traveling as much as they would, so we’re really happy to see that kind of growth.”

In the past 20 years, CFDC has seen almost 158,000 people pass through its doors, which translates to more than $9 million in tourism revenue, which goes right back into the local economy.

More than 85 per cent of visitors to CFDC were from outside of the region, which covers the Morden/Winkler area and the R.M. of Stanley and Thompson. The past year alone saw vis­i­tors from 47 coun­tries, 38 Amer­i­can states, ev­ery Cana­dian prov­ince and one ter­ri­tory.

Cantelon said it has to do with focused communication. “We’ve spent the last few years making sure people are aware that we’re here,” he said. “That’s the biggest battle, ensuring that there’s some acknowledgement of the uniqueness of the Fossil Discovery Centre.”

“It’s not a matter of people going ‘We don’t want to visit the CFDC because we don’t think it’s interesting,’ it’s a matter of people finding out it exists and wanting to be down here,” he added.

Cantelon hopes visitation will continue to rise, and added that the museum could be seeing more people.

“We’ve done enough demographic research based on other facilities like ours in similar population regions to know that if we were firing on all cylinders and our message was penetrating the market effectively, we should be seeing somewhere in the range of 60,000 visitors annually.”

2017 also saw the addition of another roadside attraction. Built by Morden resident and sculptor Adolfo Cuetara, the turtle bookends the west side of Morden. CFDC held a naming contest and after receiving hundreds of suggestions, the giant archelon turtle has been dubbed Archie.

CFDC also established the Dr. Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Nicholls Award for Excellence in Paleontology, unveiled a new seven metre Allosaurus exhibit, and rolled out two mobile apps to enhance the visitor experience.

Cantelon said 2018 will bring some new things to the museum. “That’s one of the things that continues to bring people back,” he said. “We don’t just want new visitors, we want people to  return.”

CFDC admission prices will not be rising, and Cantelon said they will continue to add value to each visit. “We’re going to explore new digital projects,” he said. “We have one, possibly two very significant new exhibits coming in 2018 as well as additional changes to exhibits. Programming is being broadened so we can involve more people of different ages. There’s so much that we’re excited for in 2018.”