Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/8/2015 (681 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
One hundred and eighty years after original construction began, and a decade after its devotees started planning, Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park was formally opened to visitors Friday.
Winnipeg's first urban provincial park celebrated its ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, officially unveiling the new additions to the site where Manitoba was born. The construction fences were removed last week, allowing the public to stroll through history.
'This is the birthplace of Manitoba. I mean, this is our history. Everything that affected what we are now happened here'-- Jerry Gray, chairman of the board for Friends of Upper Fort Garry
"It feels very good. It's a 10-year journey, right?" said Jerry Gray, chairman of the board for Friends of Upper Fort Garry, the organization that fuelled the park's creation. "This is the birthplace of Manitoba. I mean, this is our history. Everything that affected what we are now happened here."
At the corner of Broadway and Main Street, across the street from The Forks, the park is the site of the old Upper Fort Garry, built between 1835 and 1837. The fort was the centre of trade for the region -- larger than Eastern Europe -- and the administrative seat of the Red River Settlement. It's also where Louis Riel paved the road for Manitoba to enter Confederation as a province by forming his provisional government.
Between 1881 and 1888, the fort was demolished. For more than 100 years, the site languished, most recently holding an empty gas station. However, starting in 2002, local stakeholders, including the Friends of Upper Fort Garry and a handful of government agency supporters and sponsors, began a mission to bring the site back to life, purchasing the land and turning it into an urban green space with historical interpretation for interested visitors -- although you might not know it if you just strolled through.
The info about the park is conveyed by a mobile app, available on the Google Play store, Apple App Store and the Friends website for free, that gives visitors a choice of reams of historical documentation and interpretation to read on their devices. The tech-driven interpretation allows visitors to customize their learning experience of the park or give their brains a break and just enjoy the green space downtown, Gray said.
"People can come here and just relax and so forth, but with the technology... they can actually learn while they're here," said Gray. "It just transformed an ugly awful space in downtown Winnipeg to something pretty spectacular."
In order to raise the $10 million needed for this first phase of the park -- more improvements are set to come over the next 10 years -- the Friends reached out to government agencies, schools and community stakeholders. The park will also raise revenue from a temporary, two-year, surface parking lot that required city councillors to overturn a decision banning such lots by city planners.
Planned additions include an interpretive building for visitors to get more information -- construction is set to being in 2017 -- and a 120-metre-long, four-metre-high heritage wall with facts and drawings. The wall is set to be completed before 2016.
-- with files from Aldo Santin