The Fort McMurray Heritage Society is a not-for-profit organization that proudly supports and operates Heritage Village and Heritage Shipyard.
Robert (Bob) Duncan, the founding president of the Fort McMurray Historical Society, spearheaded the creation of Heritage Village (then called Heritage Park) in 1963. His goal was to ensure that the history of Fort McMurray and the surrounding region was preserved and recorded for future generations. In 1964, the land was donated by the City of Fort McMurray to create the present 6.6-acre facility for Heritage Village. The site contains numerous historic buildings, a collection of large artifacts, and Gift Shop. All buildings and large artifacts have been relocated from other sites in Fort McMurray.
In 2012, Heritage Village had developed a strategic plan and begun to identify opportunities for future improvements. This planning was halted in 2013 by the flood. Although initially disastrous, the flood created opportunities that could not have been foreseen.
Over the coming years, Heritage Village will be transformed into the world-class cultural destination that the organization and community crave. Here, the past will provide inspiration, the buildings will be preserved, and stories will continue to be told.
For decades, Fort McMurray was a transportation hub for the North. In the spring, railcars would arrive to unload their wares, which were then transferred to ships that travelled up the Athabasca River, distributing goods to remote communities from Fort McMurray north to the Arctic. To keep the river clear and open, the Canadian Coast Guard maintained a dredging vessel.
The Canadian Coast Guard announced plans in 1996 to decommission and scrap the Coast Guard Fleet, which maintained the Athabasca River channels. Fort McMurray residents convinced the federal government to transfer these artifacts to Fort McMurray Heritage (then known as the FMHS). Today, Heritage Shipyard (previously known as Marine Park) contains six historical vessels and two train cars, a collection of related artifacts, and the Jack “Torchy” Peden Centre and Gift Shop. This cultural destination is the culmination of more than 15 years of hard work and dedication from the staff, board of directors, and volunteers. The work to restore and maintain the vessels and large artifacts is ongoing.
Although the flood did not directly affect Heritage Shipyard, re-thinking how Heritage Village works also opened the door to improved interpretation and enhanced services at Heritage Shipyard.
One Heritage, Two Locations
The history of Fort McMurray is multi-dimensional, but the stories work together to create an accurate picture of the past. Through the work and dedication of the organization, generations of families will celebrate, discover, learn, and play at Heritage Village and Heritage Shipyards, and here, find a part of themselves in the stories of those who came before them.