WINDSOR, ONT. -- Amherstburg's Fort Malden National Historic Site is opening the doors to history once again for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country.

While the grounds have been open for public use, at 12 p.m. Saturday the doors opened for the first time to the site’s heritage buildings, museums and washrooms.

“We love what we do,” said Fort Malden team lead Corrine Ross. “We love seeing our visitors and bringing the history to life so for us it’s very exciting.”

Things are a little different around the fort, with new protocols in place to address COVID-19 safety measures.

Increased sanitation practises, directional signage has been added throughout the site, and new rules limiting how many people can go inside the historic buildings are being enforced.

“Our staff wear masks if they’re indoors and they’re working with the public without plexiglass, but if they’re behind plexiglass and they’re by themselves they don’t need masks,” said Ross. “Visitors are encouraged to wear a mask if they’re indoors.”

The historic site, which showcases the British fort central to the War of 1812, has been closed to the public since October 2019.

Fort Malden would have opened on May 16 had it not been for COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of changes versus last year. We were here a couple of times,” said Kerry Boucquex. “They’ve moved the demonstrations pretty much apart. You can go into the buildings but there’s nobody in there explaining what’s going on, so it’s a huge change.

Boucquex and her family made the trip from Sarina to enjoy the opening.

“We’ve been so bored at home with COVID and everything like that that I just figured it was a nice day and I had all three kids at home, so I decided ‘you know what? It’s time that we road trip a little bit,’” she said.

The serene grounds are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the week while facilities and historic buildings — despite ongoing restoration work — are open for visitors from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. 

However, COVID-19 has taken away the change to feel history as visitors are asked not to touch to help limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus.

Despite the changes, many are happy to be closer to a return to normalcy.

“It’s exciting to get out of the house and to, you know, get out with the family and walk around, check out the fort,” said visitor Jason Trias. “It’s been since last year since we had the opportunity.”