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This article was published 14/8/2015 (739 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s first urban provincial park held its ribbon-cutting ceremony today, formally unveiling the new additions to the site where Manitoba was born.
Last Friday, Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park was finally opened to the public, after a decade of work by the Winnipeg group Friends of Upper Fort Garry.
Today, board members gathered at the centuries-old spot to cut the ribbon, formally introducing the city’s first urban provincial park to its residents.
"It feels very good. It’s a 10-year journey, right?" said Jerry Gray, chairman of the board for FUFG. "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, across the street from The Forks, the park is the site of the old Upper Fort Garry, for which construction began 180 years ago. 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 the Confederation as a province by forming his Provisional Government.
Between 1881 and 1888, the Fort was demolished. For more than a hundred years the site was unmarked, 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 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 store and on the group’s website for free, that gives visitors a choice of reams of historical documentation and interpretation to read on their phones, tablets or computers.
"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."
There will be more additions to come, Gray adds. Over the next few years, an interpretive building will be added to the site for visitors to get more info, and a 120-metre long, four metre high wall will be added with facts and drawings. That wall is set to be done before 2016.