Picture-perfect pivot: How an eastern Ontario scrapyard became a must-visit destination

Scrapyard photo
Scrapyard photo

A scrapyard might not seem like the most photogenic of locations, but the folks who run the region’s most improbable mecca for shutterbugs would beg to differ.

“I don’t believe we ever planned on becoming a tourist attraction,” says Kirsha Hutchcroft, social media and marketing co-ordinator for the Eastern Ontario Boneyard. “Somewhere along the line, that aspect of the business just kind of found itself.”

Hutchcroft is part of the third generation of her family to be involved in managing the recycling yard. Located in Edwardsburgh-Cardinal township, the business has been salvaging scrap vehicles and unwanted metal since the early 1960s. The past six decades have seen it process thousands of cars, trucks and other pieces of equipment for reuse in the metal industry.

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While the recycling aspect of the business remains steady, The Boneyard has seen the birth of a new area of interest. The site is quickly becoming a desired destination for scores of art enthusiasts.

“I don’t believe we ever planned on becoming a tourist attraction.”

“In the late ’90s, my father started to hoard away some of the older vehicles that came into the yard. He began to intentionally market to the automotive restoration and hobby industry,” Hutchcroft explains.

That decision began to pay dividends in the following years. As scrap metal prices skyrocketed, many regional yards took advantage of high selling prices and cleaned out their yards, a process that removed most of the region’s vintage parts vehicles from the landscape.

The Boneyard took the opposite approach by purposely hanging on to its older stock. The result was one of Ontario’s largest collections of classic wrecks and the birth of a household name in the local car restoration scene.

But the collection brought in more than automotive enthusiasts.

The old cars started attracting photographers. The initial few shutterbugs spread the word about the collection of rusted wrecks to the point that the business had to start scheduling days where only photographers were allowed on the site. 

400-plus rusting relics

In the past few years, numerous camera clubs have taken advantage of the imagery created by the 400-plus relics rusting away in the fields. 

Photography workshops, complete with models, are common occurrences. In lieu of an admission cost to photographers, visitors are encouraged to bring donations for the local food bank.

In 2019, the yard opened the “Barn at the Boneyard,” renovating the original barn on the property into a recreational facility designed to complement the tourist visits. Prior to the pandemic, the venue hosted several social and fundraising events.

The Boneyard hopes to continue growing the tourism side of the business. 

With current measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 limiting the amount of traffic in the yard, the staff is busy working on further enhancements to the site.

Most notable is a trail through the property that is infused with multiple displays designed to delight the eye of the beholder and the lens of the camera. The launch of the new trail, tentatively set for later this year, will feature live music and an exhibit of works from local artists.

“It is very reflective of our yard … in that it is not something we staged,” Hutchcroft says. 

“The vehicles have been in the woods for years. We simply made trails linking them together. It turned out to be a cool experiment and one we think visitors will certainly appreciate.”

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