proposal facing obstacles
reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Paul Cowley) February 5, 2010
theme park must capture attention of public
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 Heritage Society has been
quietly crafting a blueprint to make Red Deer a tourist destination
by building a transportation museum, shops, children's theme park
and Canada's largest historical model railway museum in Riverlands,
and other rail-themed attractions and accommodations in Red Deer
Vital to the success of any effort to create a draw is developing
something that is unique with a "wow" factor. Mandrusiak said it has
to be the kind of attraction that a visitor to Alberta would put on
their must-visit list. "It would definitely have that kind of sizzle
The success of any attempt to lure visitors will involve creating a
place where people want to congregate, where there is a lot going
on, and the focus is not just a single attraction. Boosters of the
River Walk canal feature saw it as a catalyst that would inspire
restauranteurs, merchants and others.
Mandrusiak, who hasn't seen the heritage society's concepts, said if
something unique is planned it could have merit, but it will not be
"It gets a little tricky. There's always economics to everything and
creating a buy-in.
"I think the idea of doing something on a grand scale is right."
City Councillor Larry Pimm said the society has come up with an
interesting set of ideas, but it must be put to the public.
"If the public is really cool to it, it probably fades."
Finding the money for a large-scale project is always a "big
hurdle," especially in tough economic times. When the money can't be
found to support long-sought projects such as a 50-metre competitive
swimming pool, it is clear budgets are tight, he said.
Pimm believes successfully developing Riverlands will also mean
developing a downtown where more people have made their home and
densities are increased.
County Councillor Dave Hoar said while the society has made
administration aware of its proposal, council hasn't had a chance to
talk about it yet.
"At this point in time, we have no position on it. It would be
"On the other hand, we do own Mintlaw Bridge and the rail line
between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. It wouldn't be totally out of
reason we might consider something."
The county recently purchased for $1 the 97-year-old Mintlaw Bridge
over the Red Deer River near Springbrook from Canadian Pacific
Information on the heritage society's ideas can be found at