Officials call for change to ‘inaccessible’ Africville historic site

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It is a revered and historic location in the history of Nova Scotia. What was once the community of Africville in Halifax is now marked by a park and museum. The site is dedicated to remember Halifax's African Canadian community but as Global's Natasha Pace reports, accessing it is no easy task – Oct 25, 2016

Despite being designated a National Historic Site, access to Africville is still limited to those who travel from across Canada and the world to learn its history.

“We have a museum on site and unfortunately, we’re just as inaccessible as Africville was here in the sixties,” said Sunday Miller, executive director of the Africville Heritage Trust.

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Miller says getting to the museum is a challenge for many visitors, and a problem she has to deal with herself on a daily basis.

There’s no public transportation to the Africville museum and hardly any sidewalks in the area leading to the site.

The inaccessibility to Africville is something that’s concerning for tourists like Jeanie Cockell, who is visiting Halifax from British Columbia.

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“It’s kind of appalling,” Cockell said Tuesday. “Even if it was just a bus, that would be ideal.”

The closest bus stops to the museum are about two kilometres away. Miller has been pleading with the city for about two years to provide more signage for the museum and make the site easier to access, yet so far, nothing has been done.

“I don’t know whether it’s the story that’s being told. I mean, history is history, you can’t change it, it is what it is,” said Miller.

“It’s probably the same excuse that was used when the people of Africville were here and they couldn’t give them water and sewage, it’s that they couldn’t afford it. I’m assuming that’s probably part of the resistance.”

A petition, circulated around Halifax and online, urging the municipal government to add public transit and sidewalks near Africville has garnered hundreds of signatures.

“We signed the petition because we had to walk here and there’s no sidewalk whatsoever. It’s just all cars and massive trucks that are kind of scary,” said
Mar Sellars, who is visiting the region from Toronto.

“We were walking side-by-side-by side, but I told my mom, ‘you should probably walk behind me, we should walk single file to be a bit safer because these trucks are coming around the bend kind of fast.'”

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Miller says she’s unsure why it’s so difficult to provide adequate access for visitors, but says she is willing to compromise with the city.

“Just give us a bus stop during our peak season, you know, from May to October,” Miller said.

The city says they are aware of the petition and staff are currently exploring the proposal at council’s directive. There is no date for when a decision may be made.

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