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Never giving up on a railway dream
Heritage train park plan proposed for Innisfail 
Nov. 12, 2019, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky)

Paul Pettypiece remains a grand beautiful dreamer. For more than a decade he's held and pitched a bold vision of a one-of-a-kind railway heritage park for Central Alberta. Pettypiece, the president of the 10-member Forth Junction Heritage Society, has pounded the pavement across Central Alberta to secure support for his ambitious Forth Junction Regional Heritage Rail Park project. Countless times he's approached possible investors, (more)

Jan. 18, 2019, Red Deer Advocate (Lana Michelin)
Call to unite cultures

Red Deer group is pushing to create a local 'international village' to promote unity

A city made up of immigrants has no place for intolerance, say group members

international village discussion   Disheartened by inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment, a Red Deer group wants to revive a decades-old plan to start an international village in the city.
   It's time to remind people where their descendants came from -- and how various cultures make up the fabric of central Alberta, says group member Betty Wulff, of the city's Norwegian Laft Hus Society.
   "It's time to go back and be proud of what your parents and grandparents did to get you here," she added.
   Wulff has been approached over the years by various groups who wonder how the Norwegians managed to establish the Laft Hus, a traditional grass-on-the-roof building, that's a cultural hub in Red Deer's Heritage Square.
   Programs drawing on old-world Norwegian traditions are offered there -- from learning hardanger embroidery and rosemaling painting to folk singing and dancing and the sale of Norwegian treats and woolens.
Norwegian Laft Hus Red Deer   Wulff tells people that the original idea was to create an international village in Red Deer, where various heritage groups could erect their own buildings as a way of keeping traditions alive.
   This 1970s concept gradually lost steam as Red Deer's Cultural Heritage Society took on big projects, such as moving Cronquist House to Bower Ponds and establishing Festival Hall, she said.
   But with all the anti-immigrant/refugee sentiment being stirred up south of the border and spilling into Alberta, Wulff believes it's timely to revisit the village idea. She's supported by a dozen or so other Red Deer residents who hail from different backgrounds.
   Many local cultural groups from European backgrounds are "fading" as grandchildren and great-grandchildren start identifying less from where they are descended and more as Canadians, said Wulff.
   But she believes newer immigrants from Asia and Latin America would have more interest in keeping their cultures going by being part of an international village.
   Her group is planning to apply for non-profit status, with the mandate of seeking private donations and government grants for a large enough land parcel.
   Wulff admitted Heritage Square would be too small for a cultural village.
   Calvin Yzerman, whose wife is from the Philippines, said members of the local Filipino community are interested in being represented.
   Mexican-Norwegian brothers Gonzalo and Bernardo Franco believe the Latin community would get on board.
   Eileen McKee, who's of Japanese heritage, can see starting a Japanese garden in the village, similar to one in Lethbridge.
   Most Japanese Central Albertans are now third generation, she says, "but we need to have a start in unifying the world by sharing cultural stories that show how all of us have the same aspirations."
   The group plans to grow support by reaching out to other residents at the farmers' market this summer. Anyone interested can learn more from the Red Deer International Village Facebook page.
Photos: 1. Betty Wulff (left) and Eileen McKee discuss the concept of starting an international village in Red
  Deer. 2. Betty Wulff and Calvin Yzerman in front of the Laft Hus in Red Deer's Heritage Square.
  Photos by Lana Michelin/Advocate staff.

Historic Alberta Central Railway (CPR) Mintlaw Trestle as Regional Trail

CARTS Eyeing Mintlaw Bridge for Trans Canada Trail Leg
Between Red Deer & Springbrook

July 7, 2015, Radio News Broadcast - Sunny 94 FM website
Central Alberta Regional Trails Society is hoping both the County and City of Red Deer will partner with them to make a leg of the Trans Canada Trail System a reality between Red Deer and Springbrook. The Society has studied routes for the trail, with 4 options identified. CARTS President Paul Pettypiece says they are attracted to the Mintlaw Bridge option, which brings with it great potential for tourism "the Mintlaw Bridge is a 21

Historic Alberta Central Railway (CPR) Mintlaw Trestle as Regional Trail
Mintlaw Trestle

Preservation opportunity should not be lost

June 23, 2015, Commentary - Innisfail Province (Paul Pettypiece)
Creating trail link to rail bridge an opportunity not to be lost
June 16, 2015, Letter to the Editor - Red Deer Advocate (Paul Pettypiece)

There are times in our history when the stars line up to create an unusual opportunity to do something special that future generations will cherish. This is one of those times. A few years ago, Red Deer County was gifted for $1 the relatively unknown, historic 644-metre-long Alberta Central Railway steel trestle across the Red Deer River just a few kilometres southwest of Red Deer along with the right of way from Hwy 2A to Benalto.

Hanna Canadian Northern Roundhouse
Hanna society buys historic roundhouse
Dec. 12, 2013, Drumheller Mail (Pat Kolafa)
The Hanna Roundhouse is getting a new lease on life as it enters the next phase of its history. The Hanna Roundhouse Society has been working on finding a way to keep the landmark intact for future generations to enjoy. The biggest stumbling block it had however was the ownership of the icon. This September all of that changed. "We purchased the property on September 20," said Sandra Beaudoin who has been working on

World-class destination centre still in the works
Penhold's Paul Pettypiece says dream of the Forth Junction Project is an issue of timing
Dec. 3, 2013, Innisfail Province (Sylvia Cole), online Nov. 19, 2013
Although on a bit of a hiatus, the Forth Junction Project is still a go, says Penhold's Paul Pettypiece. "The dream isn't lost, it's just a matter of timing," said Pettypiece, president of the Forth Junction Heritage Society during an interview last week. The society has big plans to create a world-class destination in Central Alberta that would preserve and share the transportation heritage of the region. The planned Transpo Centre is a multi-phase (more)

Hanna Canadian Northern Roundhouse
Big Plans for the Hanna Roundhouse
Oct. 17, 2013, Drumheller Online (Codi Bangay)
The Hanna Roundhouse Society has big plans for their recently acquired 1913 Canadian Northern Roundhouse. While entering the UFA Get'n'Give $50,000, the volunteers of the society are hoping to restore the century old building in order to create a Community Cultural Centre. President of the Hanna Roundhouse Society, Sandra Beaudoin, says "We are trying to restore this building for future generations to be able to appreciate and

Hanna Canadian Northern Roundhouse

Hanna Roundhouse celebrates new beginnings 
Oct. 2, 2013, East Central Alberta Review (Katie Davis)
Everyone was doing the proverbial locomotion at the Hanna Roundhouse on Saturday, September 28 as the historical venue played host to an Open House to showcase it's new look. The 100 year old structure was recently acquired by the Hanna Roundhouse Society and has since been given a sprucing up in effort to promote and preserve this piece of history as one of the last roundhouses left in Canada. "The roundhouse is a (more)

Historic Alberta Central Railway (CPR) Mintlaw Trestle as Regional Trail

County council looks at bridge as tourist attraction 

April 11, 2012, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) 
A former rail bridge across the Red Deer River is well suited as a scenic walkway, but the millions of dollars to make it happen must come from elsewhere, Red Deer County council agreed on Tuesday. Council voted in favour of accepting the recommendation of consultants to convert the former Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. span into a tourist attraction and link to walking trails, complete with viewing platforms and parking areas. The cost

Railway dream shifts to county
Forth Junction targets county

Heritage society envisions rural locale to showcase past and future glories of railway and ground transportation

Dec. 27, 2011, Mountain View Gazette (2-page article by Johnnie Bachusky)

Impatient with the City of Red Deer's timelines to redevelop its Riverlands District, the Forth Junction Heritage Society is now targeting up to nine sites in Red Deer County for the main location of its ambitious dream to transform the region into a world-class heritage tourism destination point. The plan now is to secure a site of at least 40 acres within 20 kilometres of the City of Red Deer and the CPR main line, the latter being (more)

November 9, 2010, Innisfail Province, (Michaela Johnstone)
HHAS preserving legacy of war
Smith & Hillman HHAS   Members of the Harvard Historical Aviation Society, based in Springbrook, have plans to build a historically-inspired facility to house a collection of treasurers from war days long past.
   And with 2010 being the 70th anniversary of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which started the Penhold Air Base, the timing couldn't be better.
   Jodi Smith, president of the society, said they have plans to build a replica of an H-Hut, which was a barracks building used back in the Second World War.
   "The airmen in training would have stayed in something like this," Smith said, showing a detailed drawing of what the building would look like. An H-Hut looks just like it sounds - like an H, with two longer buildings on the left and right, connected by a short hallway.
   The building would house a restoration shop on one side, the museum on the other, and a gift shop, reception and washrooms in the smaller connection part.
   "There will be history in it, and the building will be of historical significance," Smith pointed out.
   But as to a building timeline, Smith said, "That's a good question. It all comes down to money."
   The society is currently raising funds for the construction of the museum. The land was donated to them by Red Deer County, and Smith and Gary Hillman, the society's vice president, agreed they would probably need to raise about $400,000 for the museum.
   "We're just at the beginning of our fundraising," Smith said, but added the society has been collecting artifacts from war days since about 2007.
   "We needed to do something to preserve the history here," Hillman said, speaking of the old air base.
The society has plenty of old photos, stories from soldiers that stayed at the Penhold Air Base, most of the parts needed to reconstruct an Airspeed Oxford, which was a training aircraft used during the Second World War and is constructed mostly of wood.
   "The Oxford spent most of its life in Penhold," Smith said.
   "They also have manuals; log books; uniforms from some of the soldiers; a flight simulator called a Link Trainer from the days of the Second World War; a collection of newspapers that were distributed on the base, first called the Penhold Log, then the Mynarski Mirror and then the Harvard Flyer. Smith said they are missing the editions from when the newspaper was called the Mynarski Mirror. There is equipment, documents and maps from the control tower and radar station, when they were active, as well as from the bunker that was on base.
   "It's fairly rare stuff," said Smith.
   "We're excited," she said of the idea of getting a museum built.
   "The challenge is for us to find these people, collect and retain their stories. The more volunteers we have to help us, the better," said Hillman.
   The society is always interested in more people joining in, especially those that would like to sit on the board. The group meets the fourth Monday of the month at the Red Deer Flying Club building on the grounds of the base, west of the Red Deer Regional Airport Terminal at 7 p.m. The next meeting will be Nov. 22.
   Also, the society hosts a Night At The Museum on the first and second Mondays of the month for members to work on restoring any museum artifacts, and it also serves as a good time for chit chat and camaraderie, said Smith.
   To raise money for the museum, the society hosted a raffle for plane rides this past summer and Smith said they did quite well.
   They will also be putting on a show with Buddy Wasisname And The Other Fellers, a music and humour group, on March 2 at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer. Tickets go on sale through TicketMaster on Nov. 15.
Photo: Jodi Smith, left, and Gary Hillman, president and vice president, respectively, hold up a scrapbook that
   the Harvard Historical Aviation Society has acquired. The scrapbook shows what life was like at the Penhold
   Air Base during the Second World War. Photo by Michaela Johnstone/Innisfail Province

Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park

Forth Junction

Tourism board supports rail project
Oct. 28, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester) 
Tourism Red Deer is giving an initial stamp of approval to a Red Deer group's proposal for a children's theme park and group transportation museum in the largely undeveloped district of Riverlands. Executive director Darren Kuz said the tourism board met earlier this month with Paul Pettypiece, president of Forth Junction Heritage Society, to hear the group's dreams for tourist attractions in the city and Red Deer County that embrace a railway (more)


Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park

Forth Junction

Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling
July 31, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester) 
A proposed major tourist attraction focused on the railways and ground transportation is gathering some steam in Red Deer, says the president of the Forth Junction Heritage Society. Paul Pettypiece said the society is getting interest about its proposed project that is expected to take 20 years to develop. Members have been circulating their message around through word of mouth since earlier this year. This fall, Forth Junction


Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park
Our Opinion (Editorial)

New idea for Riverlands worth an Olympic cheer
Feb. 24, 2010, Red Deer Express (Johnnie Bachusky) 
While Olympians continue their quest for glory this week in Vancouver, there are those in this city and region quietly moving forward with dreams of their own. Before the recession dropped like a bomb in late 2008 Red Deer was positioning itself for an exciting and prosperous future with ambitious Olympian-like plans for the Riverlands that featured a canal-driven development concept with an ultimate goal of making the city a major (more)

Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park

Our View (Editorial)

One-time opportunity
Feb. 8, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Greg Neiman)  
Let's set aside throne speeches, Parliaments, taxes and frozen windrows of snow for a while and think about something really important: a model rail museum and theme park for Riverlands. The first time you hear of a tourism-themed idea like this, the normal reaction is: "What the heck are you thinking about?" If the idea cannot climb over that first reaction, it is dead. Witness the proposal for a set of canals running through the
Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park


Happy to hear more talk on large scale attractions

Feb. 5, 2010, Red Deer Advocate online blog (Leo Pare) & print edition Feb. 10, 2010
Since the canals project dried up in late 2008, there hasn't been much talk around Red Deer's future as a tourism destination. The Advocate recently posted an online poll which revealed readers' dismal evaluation of our tourism appeal. Online commenters fiercely debated Red Deer's ups and downs. Some touted amenities like camp sites, rec facilities, and natural landscape -- all of which are tremendous community assets to be sure --

Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park

Tourism proposal facing obstacles
Transportation theme park must capture attention of public
Feb. 5, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
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

Proposed Forth Junction Heritage Rail Park

World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands

Forth Junction idea as theme park based on model train village
Feb. 4, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
World-class attractions focused on railway and other ground transportation are being promoted for sites in downtown Red Deer and Red Deer County by a group that has been working quietly for a year on the vision. Forth Junction Heritage Society hopes to turn Red Deer into a major tourist destination that would include shops, a children's theme park and a ground transportation museum in the heart of Riverlands. Visitor

January 11, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Brenda Kossowan)
Norwegian knitting
Norwegian club supports
Red Deer folk festival

   Some would see it as a mere curiosity -- a piece of wood with a carved horse attached to one end.
   To a Norwegian maiden, a wooden ironing tool hung outside her door is a sign that there is a man in her life who would make her his bride. By taking the mangletre into her house, she tells him she would welcome his proposal.
   Construction of Red Deer's Norwegian Laft Hus and the artifacts and books collected inside originate in part with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's declaration in 1974 when some people from Quebec asked his government for money to help preserve their culture, says a founding member of the Laft Hus Society.
   Trudeau replied that French and English weren't the only cultures worth preserving, says Betty Wulff, whose parents had moved from Norway to the United States and then from there to Central Alberta.
   That response sparked a multi-cultural movement that caught the imaginations of a large number of people in Red Deer, Wulff said while visiting at the Laft Hus on Saturday.
   With Trudeau's word emblazoned on their hearts, volunteers from numerous cultural backgrounds put together the city's first International Folk Festival, held in 1974 on the city's fairgrounds, then located next to the Red Deer Arena, to celebrate the area's growing diversity.
   At their post mortem party, the festival manager suggested that Red Deer could create a tremendous tourist attraction if the cultural groups involved could get together and build an international village.
   Wulff had brought a group of people together to form the Norwegian club in support of the Red Deer folk festival, which she described as an "overwhelming" success.
   "It was a chance to encourage new immigrants, to welcome them, help them, make them feel at home, make them feel like I'd like to be made to feel if I went to their country."
   The fledgling Norwegian club started off with a fundraising project to buy a practice dummy -- the Norwegian-made Resuscianne -- to be presented to the community for teaching and practising artificial respiration and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
   The club's ultimate goal was to build a log house and fill it with artifacts for their part of the proposed International Village, said Wulff.
   It took 13 years from the time they started planning until 1987, when the house was finished and ready to be moved to its current site, a plot of land in the city-owned Pioneer Village, across the street from where the fairgrounds had been located.
   For a variety of reasons, the idea of creating an International Village had fizzled, in part because the people who had been keen on it were sidetracked in 1975 by an equally worthwhile project, said Wulff.
   Members of the International Folk Festival Society were plowing a great deal of resources into moving the Cronquist house across the Red Deer River from West Park to a new site at Bower Ponds, where it would be restored and opened to the public.
   Leap forward to August of 2009, when the Alberta Museums Association gave museum status to the Norwegian Laft Hus, a source of pride and accomplishment for the many volunteers involved in its construction and development.
   But it's a lonely place, considering that all of the other cultural groups that are not represented in the same way, said Wulff. It would not be realistic to expect that the international village envisioned in 1974 could be built at Pioneer Village, she said. There simply isn't room.
   Wulff remains committed to the concept, which she believes would create an amazing draw for a city that she said falls short on tourist attractions.
   She still hopes to inspire people from as many cultural groups as possible to revive the project, find a site, and build a village.
   "I'm seventy-five and a half, and I don't want to go to Heaven until I know somebody is picking up on it," she said.
Photo: Joyce Rosenberger Norwegian knitting

May 22, 2008, Central Alberta Life (Brenda Kossowan)
Jodi Smith at Red Deer AirportMuseum idea takes off
Volunteers raising funds for Springbrook

   Few decisions have contributed as mightily to Red Deer's growth as the move to create an air force training centre.
   As surely as the Nova Chemicals plant at Joffre has contributed millions of dollars to the local economy, the creation of CFB Penhold re-shaped the future of what had been a small prairie city with an agriculture-based economy.
   Re-named CFB Penhold in 1966, the flight training centre originated as a military school in 1939 as part of the British Commonwealth's network for training pilots that would be needed for the Second World War.
   The city experienced tremendous growth as young families from across the country were shipped to Red Deer both for training and to run support services.
   Closed for a few years after the war ended, the air base and support networks were re-commissioned in 1951 to serve Canada's commitment to its allies in NATO and NORAD, including construction of a communications centre across the road from the air base and a radar station further east.
   Facilities grew to include a pair of bunkers secretly built during the early 1960s. Among them the now-famous Diefenbunker, built as a secure area for housing provincial and local leaders in the event of a crisis. It was sold in the mid-1990s to private investors, and then re-purchased and destroyed in 2001.
   The flight school continued to operate until 1965, when the NATO contract ended and airport operations were handed to the City of Red Deer.
   The few buildings that remain from the base's military role, including barracks, permanent quarters and hangars, have been either destroyed or decommissioned and subsequently sold, including the hangars, barracks, officers mess, recreation centre, and housing complex.
   Originally named for war hero Andrew Mynarski, the homes have been upgraded and incorporated into what is now the hamlet of Springbrook. What remains is the lingering desire of a small group to gather and preserve the effects of the flight school itself.
   Pieces from its storied past rest in shelves and boxes in the basements and garages of people who had a past association with the flight school, including former instructor Bev Hughes, airport business owner Gary Hillman and retired Mountie Jim Thoreson.
   Along with a few like-minded individuals, they have formed the Harvard Historical Aviation Society, named for the hefty and somewhat cantankerous craft on which so many of Canada's young pilots were trained.
   The time has come to shake the dust off of that memorabilia and give it a home, where people can get a sample of what the school was like and the tremendous influence it had in Central Alberta, says society president Jodi Smith.
   The group has raised more than $15,000 toward the establishment of a permanent site. However, it has remained homeless for some months, although the board is negotiating with Red Deer County for a piece of land at Springbrook.
   If all of their dreams come true, the museum could include both static and interactive displays along with space that could be made available for meetings and functions, says Smith.
   High on the board's wish list is acquisition of a plane similar to the ones used when the training centre was still active. Not far behind is the plan to get some schools on board to help bring life to the people and stories behind the flight school and the role it played in local history.
   "We want it to be fun," says Smith, who readily admits that she hated studying history.
   Flight simulators and other interactive displays can help get students engaged in the stories, rather than just staring at artifacts and attempting to absorb lists of facts, she says. But the museum needs a home before the board can really start putting any flesh on its ideas, says Hillman.
   With luck and good management, the Harvard Historical Aviation Society hopes to have its museum ready for a grand opening early in 2009, in time to celebrate Canada's 100th year of powered flight.
   Information about the society and its plans is available at
Photo: President Jodi Smith hopes she and other Harvard Historical Aviation Society members can get a
  museum at the Red Deer Regional Airport off the ground. Photo by Randy Fiedler/Advocate staff

Sept. 1, 2007, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Plan calls for salute to aviation history
   Springbrook's aviation heritage would be saluted on key street corners and in a showcase museum, according to a proposed plan for the fast-growing community.
   The Harvard trainer on display at the Red Deer Regional Airport would be moved and joined by other aircraft connected with Springbrook's past as a Second World War training ground for pilots.
   The planes would be placed around the community and form a historical walking tour emphasizing the community's aviation roots and which would be connected to a museum at the entrance to the community.
   As the community grows, the existing Harvard Business Park area would be incorporated into a new town centre and form a link with the airport. A full-sized hockey rink and tournament-sized sports field would be joined by other recreational facilities, and a major food store would be part of an expanded commercial and retail centre.
   These are some of the visions that emerged out of a series of workshops and design meetings earlier this month held by Calgary-based planning firm T-Six Urbanists. The $79,000 Springbrook Heritage Urban Design Plan will show how the community of 1,500 could look at 5,000 people.
   Urban design intern Lisa Niro said one of the key issues raised by local business people, the community and other stakeholders was how to ensure the airport fits in with the community as both grow.
   "Right now, there's a concern that there's a lack of integration between the residential and the airport facilities."
   Access to Springbrook also remains a high priority issue. Currently, there is only one road in but the plan will propose possible entryways along range roads 280 and 281.
   The plan will also suggest preserving land to allow for a commuter rail link between the community and Red Deer, which could possibly go further south to Penhold.
   There has also been talk of a high-speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton. The plan would place that route west of Springbrook.
   But if the bullet train becomes a reality, a new plan will have to be developed because a high-speed rail link would likely create a surge of community growth and require planning for hotels, restaurants and even convention facilities, said Niro.
   Planners expect to complete their draft plan in about two months and it will be unveiled at an open house in the late fall. Revisions will be made and the final version will then go to Red Deer County council for approval.

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