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Paul Pettypiece


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Gaetz and Ross Red Deer

Downtown Red Deer
Mintlaw ACR trestle


abandoned Alberta Central Railway trestleOur Varied Heritage
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.
The 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 energetic people.
Danish Canadian Museum DicksonFuture generations will benefit from a sense of place and cultural identity to whatever extent that we preserve, celebrate and learn from our history.

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.

CN 6060 at StettlerHowever 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 the railroad. 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.

Harvard trainer at SpringbrookAir 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 Alberta Central Heritage Model Rail Project (now a part of the Forth Junction Project, a proposed major tourist and community attractor for downtown Red Deer and Red Deer County based on ground transportation heritage).

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