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Tourism proposal facing obstacles
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) February 5, 2010

Transportation theme park must capture attention of public

The toughest task facing a group trying to develop rail- and transportation-themed tourist attractions for the Red Deer area will be getting the proposal moving, predicted a local businessman who previously pitched canals to put the city on the map.

"They're very difficult," said Ken Mandrusiak of ambitious tourist concepts. "It's like starting a train. Once you get going, you can create some momentum."

A local group called Forth Junction Heritage Society has been quietly crafting a blueprint to make Red Deer a tourist destination by building a transportation museum, shops, children's theme park and Canada's largest historical model railway museum in Riverlands, and other rail-themed attractions and accommodations in Red Deer County.

Vital to the success of any effort to create a draw is developing something that is unique with a "wow" factor. Mandrusiak said it has to be the kind of attraction that a visitor to Alberta would put on their must-visit list. "It would definitely have that kind of sizzle to it."

The success of any attempt to lure visitors will involve creating a place where people want to congregate, where there is a lot going on, and the focus is not just a single attraction. Boosters of the River Walk canal feature saw it as a catalyst that would inspire restauranteurs, merchants and others.

Mandrusiak, who hasn't seen the heritage society's concepts, said if something unique is planned it could have merit, but it will not be easy.

"It gets a little tricky. There's always economics to everything and creating a buy-in.

"I think the idea of doing something on a grand scale is right."

City Councillor Larry Pimm said the society has come up with an interesting set of ideas, but it must be put to the public.

"If the public is really cool to it, it probably fades."

Finding the money for a large-scale project is always a "big hurdle," especially in tough economic times. When the money can't be found to support long-sought projects such as a 50-metre competitive swimming pool, it is clear budgets are tight, he said.

Pimm believes successfully developing Riverlands will also mean developing a downtown where more people have made their home and densities are increased.

County Councillor Dave Hoar said while the society has made administration aware of its proposal, council hasn't had a chance to talk about it yet.

"At this point in time, we have no position on it. It would be premature.

"On the other hand, we do own Mintlaw Bridge and the rail line between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. It wouldn't be totally out of reason we might consider something."

The county recently purchased for $1 the 97-year-old Mintlaw Bridge over the Red Deer River near Springbrook from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.

News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society (more below):
       News article: World-class destination centre still in the works (Innisfail Province Nov.2013)
       Editorial: Praise today's big dream
(Innisfail Province Jan.2012)
       Editorial: Railway concept captures region's uniqueness (Olds Albertan Jan.2012)
       Feature article: Forth Junction targets county
(Mountain View Gazette Dec.2011)
       News article: Forth Junction pulling toward a new station
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2011)

News articles related to ACR/CPR Mintlaw bridge mentioning the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
       News article: Plans for Mintlaw Bridge waiting on public feedback
(Mountain View Gazette Feb.2012)
       News article: Opposition comes forward to Mintlaw Bridge preservation
(Mountain View Gazette May 2011)
       News article: RD County antes up for Mintlaw Bridge repairs
(Mountain View Gazette Nov.2010)
       News article: Bridging gap between history and disrepair
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)

News article related to regional model and miniature railways mentioning the Forth Junction Project:

       News article: Trains still roll for some
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2012)

News articles related to historic downtown Red Deer redevelopment mentioning the Forth Junction Project
(the original vision of the Forth Junction Heritage Society included an attraction in the new downtown
Riverlands but this vision was modified to have one destination close to the city and active rail line):

       News article: Railyards: Open house on a 20-year plan for downtown
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Riverlands: Strong turnout for open house
(Red Deer Advocate March 2011)
       Commentary: Red Deer could use more bold visionary landmark designers
(Red Deer Express Sep.2010)

Michael Dawe articles related to regional railway heritage mentioning the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
       Region celebrating century of railroad heritage (Red Deer Express March 2010)
       Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad heritage (Red Deer Express March 2010)


 News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
World-class destination centre still in the works 11/13       Praise today's big dream 01/12       Forth Junction targets county 12/11 
Forth Junction pulling toward a new station
12/11        A volunteer on the right track 12/10        Tourism board supports rail project 10/10
Forth Junction rail project seeking charitable status
10/10        Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling 07/10        Railway heritage 06/10
New idea for Riverlands worth an Olympic cheer 02/10       Happy to hear more talk on large-scale attractions 02/10
One-time opportunity 02/10       Tourism proposal facing obstacles 02/10       World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands 02/10

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