SASKATOON -- Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon is reopening with a brand new look just in time for the Labour Day long weekend after being closed due to COVID-19.

The renovations include a new bison viewing platform, a new plaza at the front door, art galleries, gift shop, restaurant, trail system and kids’ playground. Construction to the conference rooms and permanent exhibits are expected to be completed by early November. 

“To me this is an incredible example of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people coming together to build a place where future generations can learn about local culture, learn about the history and the valley here,” said Andrew McDonald, director of marketing and communications with Wanuskewin.

McDonald said the renovations are expected to cost $40 million.

Masks are mandatory inside the facility unless visitors are outside on the trails or in the plaza.

Wanuskewin will also be offering immunocompromised tour day options for guests on Mondays and Tuesdays as well as daily physically distanced tours. Guests will also be required to take part in contact tracing at the front door. 

“It’s good to be back at the park, there was a lot of preparation to get here but it’s good to be back on the trails and getting ready for schools. We had at least 60 visitors lined up at the front door when we opened at 11 a.m. today,” said Chris Standing, visitor services manager with Wanuskewin.

Among the visitors were Joe and Donna Hughes from Moncton, NB, who are visiting family in Saskatoon. They wanted to show their grandson Joshua the bison. 

“We saw the bison out in the fields and the artwork outside with the prairie grass. It’s just truly amazing, we’re glad to be back,” Joe Hughes said. 

Wanuskewin has also revamped its food menu. Executive Chef, Jenni Lassard has been busy making sure her menu reflects the land.

“I think I picked 25 pounds of choke cherries, I’m going to pick some more. We have blue berries from La Ronge, we have nettle. Of course lots of bison on the menu. Of course people always ask about gluten free, the Indigenous diet was gluten free to begin with so it’s not hard to eat gluten free at Wanuskewin,” Lassard said. 

Saturday, Sunday and Monday during the long weekend, Wanuskewin will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Next week, Wanuskewin will switch to its regular schedule of Wednesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.