History of the
Our richness as a unique place in society is a result of the diverse culture and
heritage of those who struggled to lay the groundwork in the past to
create the region as we know it today and those who continue to do so
into the future.
Red Deer region as a highly developed, prosperous and productive series
of communities is relatively young by world standards but it still has an abundance of
natural, cultural and progressive history from the natural creation of
the Red Deer River valley, its lush parkland, lakes and fossil deposits
to the nomadic societies of the First Nations peoples and the arrival of
the first European settlers to the region becoming a centre of economic
prosperity and pride through its beauty, natural resources, location and
Future generations will benefit from a sense of place and cultural
identity to whatever extent that we preserve, celebrate and learn from
Of particular significance is the history of transportation that made
Red Deer a major destination for explorers, settlers and entrepreneurs
from many far away places as well as a major distribution hub for goods,
services, agriculture and resources.
The first transportation corridor was the river and its many
tributaries. A series of trails used by native peoples, fur traders and
explorers opened up the region for the early settlers and missionaries.
The original locations of Red Deer, Innisfail and Tail Creek were
determined by the river and the trails. Several communities developed
with a distinct cultural identity.
However the most profound mode of transportation that determined the
location of communities, encouraged an influx of people from many
corners of the world and made possible the distribution of agricultural
products and the many natural resources of the area was
Communities were created, disappeared or relocated as a result of where
the railroads were located. The town sites of Red Deer and Innisfail
were relocated and the new towns of Lacombe, Blackfalds, Bowden,
Delburne, Sylvan Lake, Benalto, Eckville, Mirror, Big Valley and
Stettler were determined by where one of the railroads chose to build
its line, its water tanks and its grain handling facilities. Major
centres, including Red Deer, were determined in large part by where the
railroads built their divisional points. At one point, four railroads
were built or were planned to be built in nine directions out of Red
Deer. In many cases, when the railroad left, communities stopped growing
or even declined.
Enhancing the growth of communities was the arrival of the automobile
and the subsequent network of paved and gravel roads. A major four-lane
highway linking Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton was built 50 years ago
paving the way for the spectacular growth of the corridor including the
towns alongside it and Gasoline Alley immediately south of Red Deer.
Air travel was embraced by the region early on but there was a struggle
to get a major airport facility at Red Deer. However military air
training was a major economic driver from the Second World War to the
mid-1960s at the Penhold base south of the city where Springbrook and
the Red Deer Regional Airport are located today.
Heritage preservation has the potential to be a great tourism generator.
Many excellent cultural and historic attractions already exist in the
region and more are planned. However, the region has much more untapped
potential to celebrate and explore the past while attracting travellers
from all parts of the world.
Three of several initiatives that I
have been privileged to contribute to and actively support are the proposed Springbrook Heritage Urban Design Plan,
the proposed Harvard Historical Aviation Centre and the
Heritage Model Rail Project (now a part of the
Project, a proposed major tourist and community attractor for
downtown Red Deer and Red Deer County based on ground transportation