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Our View (Editorial)
Praise today's big dream
Opinion reprinted from Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky) January 12, 2012
Railway concept captures region's uniqueness

Opinion reprinted from Olds Albertan January 19, 2012
It would be easy to dismiss the ambitions of Paul Pettypiece's Forth Junction Heritage Society project for central Alberta as over the top and unachievable.

Certainly, the scope of the plan is enormous. If realized it would cover an area of at least 40 acres, with one part being a Western Canada Transpo Centre that will include a "grand" central gathering place, a multi-level retail centre, heritage plaza and a historical model rail museum.

The second component would be the Railway Station and Transit Heritage Resort. This would include a Railway Station Village, a replica of the Jubilee 3001 "Chinook" steam locomotive, Retro Bus Depot, and observation tower.

This is a lofty dream, one that could require hundreds of millions of dollars to be realized. But Pettypiece is a realist and does not envision it to be anywhere near completed for at least 25 years.

Most people at this point in time are not prepared to give Pettypiece more than lip service, noting current economic conditions do not warrant such ambitions and the price tag it would entail.

That is understandable but what Pettypiece does have in his favour now is an idea for central Alberta that is completely original when one considers the types of tourism mega projects that already exist in the province and the rest of the country.

As well, Pettypiece can also benefit from the fact the City of Red Deer did not move on his idea for the Riverlands district, a downtown area that is as perfect as one could imagine for a mega project to put the city and the region on the map provincially and nationally as a world-class tourism destination point.

Where the dreams of a San Antonio-style Riverwalk for the Riverlands died in part because it was felt by a few (influential as they were) that copy-cat Texas-style development had nothing to do with the region's heritage, Pettypiece's Forth Junction idea of creating a railway and ground transportation theme is groundbreaking and a near perfect fit to reflect the region's culture and history.

However, what Pettypiece's main battle could be is the ingrained notion with many central Alberta residents, as proven during the past Riverlands debate, that the region ought not to think too big, that dreams are only for dreamers and not to be mixed with good old fashioned conservative pragmatism.

Thankfully, Pettypiece's Forth Junction Heritage Society is patient, and slowly but surely growing. The society has now secured a letter of support from Tourism Red Deer and is awaiting another one from Red Deer County, where nine potential sites for the project are being considered.

As well, the society is quietly laying the groundwork for future support by consulting with regional heritage groups in communities along the CPR main line, notably Innisfail and Didsbury.

Last fall, the society visited the Innisfail Historical Village, which is now an official member of Pettypiece's group.

The historical village has a strong railway component to its own operations and officials there see plenty of potential symmetry with Forth Junction's future ambitions.

"I think it is tremendous," said Village curator Dean Jorden. "He (Pettypiece) sees tying the Village in so you could plan a visit to the main centre. This would increase our daily traffic flow and attendance. It would do nothing but absolute good for us."

Pettypiece also wants the same linkage with Didsbury's heritage people, considering that town's devotion to heritage, notably through its restored train station and programs offered there. And once Olds resolves its issues with its local museum (space and funding) there may be more opportunities there as well for additional regional support.

In the meantime, Pettypiece and the society must move only one step at a time, dodging the naysayers, which there will always be many. But big dreamers are good at rolling with punches. Once convinced there mission is true, their spirit is unbreakable.

News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society (more below):
       News article: World-class destination centre still in the works (Innisfail Province Nov.2013)
       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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