LEWISTON — Museum L-A took announced its new Franco Trail L-A recently at the Gendron Franco Center.

The finished project includes a paper map, a website and a free smartphone app that can be used for taking self-guided walking tours with at least 18 attractions featuring French heritage and local history.

Elaine Roop, president of the center’s board of directors, said the project was a “wonderful opportunity for anyone, whether they are Franco or not, to be educated on Lewiston-Auburn’s heritage. The project makes all the heritage information that we talk about, something tangible.”

Rachel Desgrosseilliers, executive director of Museum L-A, said an intern from Quebec, Catherine Picard, took on Franco Trail L-A as her own project with the support of Lojiq, an organization that promotes partnerships between Quebec and other countries.

“The impetus for doing this project came through our attending the Reseau Francophone/Francophile in Quebec a couple of years ago. Before we left Quebec, they kept pushing us to sign up to create a project since we had a large Francophone population in Lewiston-Auburn.”

Catherine Picard, an intern from Quebec at Museum L-A, gestures toward the screen displaying an image of Franco Trail L-A, a tourism project she completed for the museum.

Desgrosseilliers introduced Guillaume Sayinzoga, a volunteer at the museum, as instrumental in the technological side of things, Franco Trail L-A’s website iswww.francotrailla.com. The free app can be downloaded on smartphones.

Picard described the process of putting together the trail based on important historical attractions and businesses. “Franco Trail L-A is a tourist tool to plan your schedule, movement and even your program of the day,” she said. “All attractions and businesses are grouped in one convenient tool: Franco Trail L-A. There are multiple ways of using this tool.”

The Boston branch of the Quebec Government Office sent its delegate, Marie-Claude Francoeur, as representative of Quebec. She said, “Our communities share a common history, culture and values. We share a language, lost for some, but always still in our hearts. The trail gives us opportunities to go back to where we came from.”

Desgrosseilliers challenged federal and municipal representatives in the audience to be prepared for tourism. “Museum L-A has an advertisement that will run in a motor coach industry magazine next year. That means we have that long to prepare.”

The preparation was the impetus for creating a bus tour package to go along with the Franco Trail L-A. Picard was tasked with creating an itinerary for the bus run test.

“Creating the itinerary was an eye-opener, Desgrosseilliers said. “We learned which businesses already have the capacity to open their doors to bus tours. Visitors find our cities beautiful and fun. A visitor from London said that Maine is the most American and down to earth. We are real people with a ‘joie de vivre’ to visitors from away.”

Franco Trail L-A represents a tourism tool that can be used in multiple ways: on a self-guided walking tour or on a bus tour. There are three versions: a print map, a website and a phone app.

The museum and the partners who worked to create Franco Trail L-A, Sts. Peter and Paul Basilica, Gendron Franco Center, Franco American Collection at USM, and the Chamber, will continue to add to the trail’s app and website, and are open to suggestions to improve the experience of people using the trail. “These are the people who have been working diligently to incorporate the many aspects of Lewiston-Auburn’s Francophone heritage into a tourism package of fun, food and history,” Desgrosseilliers said.

Museum L-A is located in the Bates Mill Complex, 35 Canal St. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Special tour requests and large group tours outside of these hours are available by appointment.

For more information, email [email protected] or call 207-333-3881.


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