Dingman Number 1 Discovery Well, 2nd replica built by Heritage Park staff and contractors. PHOTO: CHARLOTTE HOLMES

Heritage Park is reopening again this May long weekend with new immersive exhibits showcasing Western Canada’s energy sector and natural resources.

The historical village –– which has been closed since December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines –– will open its gates and allow visitors to explore the new Prospect Ridge area.

“We are ready to welcome the community back to a place they know and love,” says Jeff Hodgson, senior director of business operations at Heritage Park.

Located on the traditional territories of the Treaty 7 peoples and the Metis Nation Region 3, the park, which opened in 1964, is tasked with the education, preservation and presentation of Western Canadain history. 

Some of the exhibits within Prospect Ridge have been revitalised, others are new and there happen to be a few exhibits that will be returning to the park. When it first opened in the ‘60s, the historical village had a waterwheel, coal mine, miner’s cabin and more — all of which will return upon the opening of Prospect Ridge. 

The area will be opening in two phases –– the first highlights the history of Alberta’s energy sector. 

“Visitors [will] step back to 1914 when oil was first struck in Turner Valley, to experience the life of a miner when coal was king and to catch the gold fever that lured thousands of men to seek their fortunes in Western Canada,” says Hodgson.

The second phase won’t open until the fall, but it will feature exhibits and educational spaces showcasing the province’s current energy sector. 

Hodgson says new exhibits like Innovation Crossing will showcase the province and country’s ongoing commitment to protect our natural resources and to be good stewards of the environment.  

“Our country is one of the leaders in the development of renewable energy sources,” he says. “We have the sun, the wind and the water to complement our fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint” 

Heritage Park Innovation Crossing, opening in the fall. PHOTO: CHARLOTTE HOLMES

With the aid of both the provincial and federal governments, as well as others within the community, the historical village has raised more than $8 million to revitalize this section of the park. 

As the historical village prepares to open for its 57th season, this summer is going to look quite different.

“Normally we would be preparing to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world,” says Hodgson. “We all know that’s not our current reality.”

As certain COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, the park is working with Alberta Health Services to ensure both visitor and staff safety over the summer. For now the park will be focused on offering outdoor experiences for visitors.

“Bring[ing] history to life on the lawns, porches and gardens of our historical homes and buildings.”

Built around 1885 in Banff Alta., this exhibit is returning to Heritage Park with the opening of Prospect Ridge. PHOTO: CHARLOTTE HOLMES