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  ACR pier at Taylor Drive

Forth Junction Project
A Unique Time to
Think Big and Bold for
a Major Destination

 
Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
Heritage Preservation
Forth Junction
Heritage Society

Forth Junction Transpo Park

Western Canada Transpo Centre

Historical Miniature Rail Museum

Railway Station Heritage Resort

an opportunity for boldness . . .

Red Deer CPR bridge now pedestrian trailRecent Initiatives to Think Big and Bold
 
In 1991, a big and bold initiative was realized with the relocation of the Canadian Pacific Railway yards from the downtown to the northwest sector of the city. The construction of a major road corridor and commercial area as well as preservation of the historic railway station and river bridge followed.

 

A few years ago, another initiative in thinking big and bold was the decision by the City of Red Deer to relocate the civic yards from the downtown riverfront in an industrial area once used by the railway, opening up a large tract of land, referred to as the Riverlands, to future development as an extension of the city core.

 

In 2007, an ad-hoc tourism subcommittee of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce proposed a major attractor for the Riverlands area of a series of canals using the San Antonio model as a basis for a once-in-a-generation controlled redevelopment. Although the proposal did not proceed as a result of public perception that the concept wasn't authentic, unique or affordable enough, it did get city administration and the general public to think even bigger and bolder as to the potential of the Red Deer downtown as the location for a world-class community and tourist attraction.

The Red Deer Greater Downtown Action Plan
 

historic railway theme downtownDuring the summer of 2008 as part of the update for the 2000 Downtown Action Plan, the public got involved in a big way in a series of workshops for a new concept in the redevelopment of the area between the existing downtown and the river.
 
Alexander Way signSome initiatives had already been realized from the earlier plan including the creation of Alexander Way using a railway theme as a cultural and pedestrian-friendly corridor through the city core linking the east downtown recreation and culture park to the river.
 
The new plan focused on enhancing and linking three areas -- the new Riverlands (site of the former civic yards and includes the Cronquist Business Park, some residential and the Carnival Theatre), the Railyards district (sometimes referred to as the Cannery Row district) and the historic downtown.
concept of Riverlands attractor
 
The Greater Downtown Action Plan, adopted by the city in January 2009, includes commercial and residential development, a pedestrian bridge across the river to Bower Ponds, hotel and convention centre, water features, a public market, public square, cultural facilities, a placeholder for a major attractor for the Riverlands and a trail link between the historic railway bridge and station as well as the acquisition of a historic locomotive for the Railyards district.


100th Anniversary of Red Deer as a City in 2013
 
CPR station and park 1919By 1913, Canadian Pacific had designated Red Deer as the divisional point between Calgary and Edmonton and had built a new station, expanded yards, turntable and roundhouse, a beautiful park with fountain and had replaced the wooden river bridge with steel. Twenty-three years earlier, the railroad had accepted an offer from Rev. Leonard Gaetz to build the railway and create a townsite on his property resulting in the relocation of the small community at 'the Crossing' where it had been assumed the railway would cross the river.
 
Meanwhile the Red Deer-based Alberta Central Railway and the Canadian Northern Western Railway were constructing largely parallel railways to Rocky Mountain House. Plans were made for railways to run in nine directions with Red Deer as the centre. Red Deer was prospering and growing rapidly and had become the distribution and transportation centre of Central Alberta.
 
Gaetz and Ross historic downtownThe expectation was that the boom would continue indefinitely and speculators planned for the community to become a metropolis of 20-30,000 in ten years. So with a population of 3,000, Red Deer applied for city status which was granted by the province in March 1913. Ironically, just as the status was approved, the new city was hit by a recession that resulted in the population remaining essentially the same for the next ten years. However the city's role as the hub of Central Alberta had been established.


Red Deer County Embraces Open Spaces and Heritage
 
In 2009, Red Deer County adopted its Open Spaces Master Plan. Through research and public consultation, the plan proposes a system of natural recreational corridors linking communities, natural areas and heritage sites. One of the natural corridors includes portions of the abandoned former Alberta Central Railway roadbed between Benalto and Red Deer including the historic Mintlaw trestle, purchased by the County from CPR in late 2009. The natural and former rail corridors could eventually evolve into a regional trail network, taking advantage of the potential for rural tourism, the opportunity for bed and breakfasts, the increasing desire for active transportation and the celebration of the county's rich heritage.
 
Mintlaw trestle over the Red Deer RiverA recent comprehensive study of the county's heritage inventory identified the Mintlaw trestle and the Ardley railway station as potential future historic resources.

 

The two initiatives have prepared the county for an opportunity to create an attraction that combines natural areas, recreational trails, historic interpretive centres, eco- and agri-tourism and unique rural visitor accommodation.


The Search for a Unique and Authentic Tourist Magnet
 
Waskasoo Park trailsFor over a hundred years, the people of Red Deer and area have taken great pride and value in their river valley, parks, natural areas and, more recently, the evolution of a first-class modern urban trail system as well as the region's rich heritage. A large segment of the population, largely activated by the public process in creating a dynamic downtown, is now looking for a unique, authentic and sustainable visitor magnet to compliment its treasured assets provided that it is unique, authentic and sustainable.
 
Inspired by the imaginative public process of the Greater Downtown Action Plan and the bold vision of the Tourism Subcommittee of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, as well as a thirty-year dream to commemorate and celebrate the rich railway history of the city and region, a group of railway modellers and transportation historians have come together to propose a multi-venue community and visitor attraction based on the trail, rail and transit heritage of the area.
 
An ongoing process of consultation with several local people of influence that have resulted in many suggestions and ideas, the Forth Junction Project is continuing to evolve.


Opportunity for Multiple Primary Canadian Attractions
 
The opportunity to create one unique attraction in Canada is unusual enough -- the opportunity to create three is rare, especially attractions that are self-supporting, sustainable and ones that people will return to again and again. The keys are that they are interesting, varied, interactive, stimulating, fun and appeal to all ages.
 
'The Crossing' concept building1. The most versatile attractor with mass appeal is a proposed trail-rail-transit family entertainment-education-retail gathering centre, tentatively called the Western Canada Transpo Centre in or close to downtown Red Deer that would be the first of its kind in Canada. The shopping centre and theme park components will support the operations of the centre and act as sustainable local attractors. The other components including the gathering hall, transportation exploration facilities and atriums will also be interactive, interesting, changeable and/or stimulating and act as regional and international attractors that the city and region can be very proud of. If located downtown, additional opportunities include combining the major attractor with a hotel and convention centre development as well as other heritage and cultural facilities.
 
railway heritage park2. As a major component of the Forth Junction Transpo Park and appealing to visitors and residents alike, a heritage railway station and transit resort, family activity and nature park, and interpretive centre, tentatively referred to as 'The Railway Station and Transit Heritage Resort', is proposed for a relaxed natural setting on the fringe of the city next to an active railway, the first multi-use outdoor facility of its kind in Canada. Instead of old static equipment typical of most railway museums, interpretive displays will be interactive, fun and functional and yet convey the historic significance of the railway. Income from the rental of replicated stations and bed and breakfasts will provide sufficient revenue to maintain and operate the park.

CPR Jubilee locomotive3. Complimenting the resort and park would be a fully-functioning 1/8 replication of the historic locomotive CPR 3001 'The Chinook' as part of both an outdoor and indoor theme park.
 
4. Canada's largest historical model railway museum celebrating key historic milestones in the region's economic development will be best located close to 'The Western Canada Transpo Centre' providing complimentary access to the gathering area for major regional or national model railway shows as one of many uses potentially bringing visitors from all over North America to the Red Deer region.

Walking, bicycling, buses and other transportation modes will tie these features with other historic icons in the city and region providing further opportunities for transit and tour operators as well as entrepreneurs who develop innovative ways to expand the overall theme of recognizing the critical role of the railway in the settlement and prosperity of Central Alberta as representative of all of Western Canada.


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 Forth Junction Transpo Park      Western Canada Transpo Centre      Historical Miniature Rail Museum      Railway Station Heritage Resort
Trails, Rails, Transit Heritage Centre      An Opportunity for Boldness       A Time to Think Big and Bold
 

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