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