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Fort Saskatchewan

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Fort Saskatchewan
City
City of Fort Saskatchewan
Downtown Fort Saskatchewan
Downtown Fort Saskatchewan
Flag of Fort Saskatchewan
Flag
Official logo of Fort Saskatchewan
Motto(s): 
Gotta Love It!
Fort Saskatchewan is located in Strathcona County
Fort Saskatchewan
Fort Saskatchewan
Location of Fort Saskatchewan with Strathcona County
Fort Saskatchewan is located in Alberta
Fort Saskatchewan
Fort Saskatchewan
Location of Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta
Coordinates: 53°42′46″N 113°12′48″W / 53.71278°N 113.21333°W / 53.71278; -113.21333Coordinates: 53°42′46″N 113°12′48″W / 53.71278°N 113.21333°W / 53.71278; -113.21333
CountryCanada
ProvinceAlberta
RegionEdmonton Metropolitan Region
Planning regionNorth Saskatchewan
Adjacent Specialized municipalityStrathcona County
Adjacent municipal districtSturgeon County
Incorporated[1] 
 • VillageMarch 1, 1899
 • TownJuly 1, 1904
 • CityJuly 1, 1985
Named forNorth Saskatchewan River
Government
 • MayorGale Katchur
(Past mayors)
 • Governing body
Fort Saskatchewan City Council
  • Ajibola Abitoye
  • Gordon Harris
  • Brian D. Kelly
  • Deanna Lennox
  • Lisa Makin
  • Edward Sperling
 • ManagerTroy Fleming
 • MPGarnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan-Conservative)
 • MLAJackie Armstrong Homeniuk (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville-UCP)
Area
 (2016)[3]
 • Land48.18 km2 (18.60 sq mi)
Elevation610 m (2,000 ft)
Population
 (2016)[3]
 • Total24,149
 • Density501.3/km2 (1,298/sq mi)
 • Municipal census (2019)
26,942[5]
Time zoneUTC−7 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−6 (MDT)
Forward sortation area
Area code(s)780, 587, 825
HighwaysHighway 15, Highway 21
WaterwaysNorth Saskatchewan River
Pointe-aux-Pins Creek
Ross Creek
Public Transit ServiceFort Sask Transit
Websitefortsask.ca Edit this at Wikidata

Fort Saskatchewan is a mid-sized city along the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, Canada. It is 25 kilometres (16 mi) northeast of Edmonton, the provincial capital. Fort Saskatchewan is part of the Edmonton census metropolitan area and is one of 24 municipalities that constitute the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB).[6] Fort Saskatchewan's population in the 2016 federal census was 24,149. Its population has since increased to 26,942 according to the city's 2019 municipal census.

The city was founded as a North-West Mounted Police fort and was later home to a large provincial gaol; the city prides itself on its "law and order" history.[7] The original fort was located across the river from the hamlet of Lamoureux, and the city opened a replica of the fort next to its original site in 2011.[8] Fort Saskatchewan is bordered by Strathcona County to the south and east, Sturgeon County to the north and west, and the City of Edmonton to the southwest. Sturgeon County is across the North Saskatchewan River.

The city is best known for its proximity to petrochemical facilities, including Dow Chemical, Sherritt International, Nutrien (formerly Agrium), and Shell Canada. It is also known for its flock of 50 sheep that roam the Fort Heritage Precinct throughout the summer months, eating the grass.[9] The city mascot is a sheep named Auggie.[10]

History[edit]

Pre-colonization and founding[edit]

The interior of Fort Saskatchewan, c. 1884

Prior to the colonization of the region, the area around what is now Fort Saskatchewan was a gathering place and home to a variety of different Indigenous peoples, including the Cree (Néhinaw) and Nakota nations.[11] The Indigenous peoples of the region commonly traveled the North Saskatchewan River by canoe.[8] The mouth of the Sturgeon River, located near modern-day Fort Saskatchewan's industrial business park, was an ideal location to gather the materials necessary to construct canoes.[8] The Indigenous peoples of the region named the area of modern-day Fort Saskatchewan "Birch Hills", as birch bark was an important component in canoe making.[8]

In 1875, under the command of Inspector William D. Jarvis, the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) established Sturgeon Creek Post as a fort along the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River.[8] The post was soon renamed "Fort (on the) Saskatchewan", and it became a key northern police garrison.[8] The fort's location caused notable outrage among the residents of Edmonton, who held a public meeting to voice their opposition to the police garrison being located such a distance from their settlement.[12] Chief Factor Richard Hardisty, in charge of Fort Edmonton, wanted the police garrison to be located on the land where the University of Alberta's North Campus now stands, which is across the river and slightly upstream from the site where Fort Edmonton was located at the time.[12] However, Inspector Jarvis preferred the downstream site because he believed that its narrower and shallower river banks made the area a better candidate for a future railway crossing.[12]

In 1885, the NWMP made Fort Saskatchewan the headquarters of its 'G' Division, and considered moving it to Edmonton to accommodate an expansion.[12] The residents of Edmonton were enthusiastic about this proposal; they held a public meeting to voice their support for the move, and submitted a 250-signature petition to the Minister of the Interior.[12] However, the existing (temporary) NWMP barracks in Edmonton were dilapidated to the point where some men mutinied in 1886 – an event known among police at the time as "the Big Buck".[12] It was cheaper to expand Fort Saskatchewan at its current location than to rebuild and expand the garrison in Edmonton.[12] Thus, despite the efforts of Edmonton's residents, who would continue to protest and voice their discontent until 1888, Fort Saskatchewan remained where it was.[12]

The palisade wall surrounding the fort was dismantled in 1886, and the fort was expanded for a second time in 1889.[13] As headquarters of 'G' Division, the fort hosted patrols that extended as far as Fort Simpson and Chesterfield Inlet, both in the Northwest Territories.[13] The NWMP transferred the property to the Alberta government in 1911 for the construction of a provincial jail, and the fort was soon demolished.[13] Numerous artifacts and structural features have been discovered during subsequent digs, including clothing buttons, a possible privy deposit, and structural remains of the original palisade wall.[13] However, the site of the fort has been partially damaged by the installation of underground utilities, and the construction of the provincial jail.[13] The community was incorporated as a village in 1899, a town in 1904, and a city in 1985.[1]

The hanging of Swift Runner[edit]

Five hangings were conducted at the fort between 1879 and 1914.[8] On December 20, 1879, Fort Saskatchewan's police garrison conducted the first hanging in the Northwest Territories (which then included present-day Alberta).[14]

Swift Runner (Ka-Ki-Si-Kutchin), a Cree man, was considered by locals to be smart and trustworthy, and he had previously served as a guide for local police.[14] However, he was expelled from Fort Saskatchewan, and later his tribe as well, after developing a severe addiction to whisky.[14] After he eventually arrived back at Fort Saskatchewan alone, it was discovered that he had killed and eaten his six children, his wife, his brother, and his mother.[14] Possible motives for his acts have been proposed, such as trauma from previously being forced to eat a deceased hunting partner out of necessity, or being possessed by Wendigo – a flesh eating spirit in some Indigenous cultures.[14]

In August 1879, after being charged for murder and cannibalism, Swift Runner was sentenced to death by a jury consisting of three Métis residents, four locals who knew the Cree language, and a Cree translator.[14] Scaffolding was built for his hanging in December, and an army pensioner was paid $50 to act as the hangman.[14] Local Indigenous chiefs were also invited to observe the execution to pacify rumours of unnecessary cruelty inflicted upon the condemned.[14] However, the hanging had to be delayed after locals used the trap from the scaffolding as kindling for a fire, and the hangman forgot straps to bind Swift Runner's arms.[14] At 9:30 am, Swift Runner was hanged in front of 60 onlookers and pronounced dead shortly after.[14] Within an hour, his body was cut from the rope and buried in the snow outside of the fort walls.[14]

Early growth[edit]

Arrival of the railway[edit]

The Fort Saskatchewan ferry in 1898, with Fort Saskatchewan in the background

Prior to the arrival of the railway, people travelling to and from Edmonton had to traverse a dirt trail that wound around woods and swamps.[8] The Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) reached Fort Saskatchewan in 1905, placing the town on a transcontinental rail line.[15] The CNR station is a modified third-class station design (100-19 plan), which was a "special station" that was only used by CNR at the most significant stops along their line.[16] It had several unique features, such as a longer footprint than other third-class stations and a freight shed; these reflected Fort Saskatchewan's status as the centre of an agricultural district and the largest community on the CNR line between Edmonton, and North Battleford, Saskatchewan.[16][17] A second freight shed was built on the west side of the station in 1911; a sign of the growth in population and rail traffic that Fort Saskatchewan experienced.[16] This station is the only surviving model 100-19 railway station in Alberta.[16] In the decade after the railway arrived, the town's population nearly doubled to 993.[18]

A colour postcard showing a train crossing the CNR bridge into Fort Saskatchewan. The wooden car deck can be seen below.

The first bridge leading to Fort Saskatchewan, crossing the North Saskatchewan River, was also built at this time; CNR paid for it in exchange for free land for its station in Fort Saskatchewan.[19] It had a train deck on its upper level and a wooden road deck on its lower level.[19][20] Prior to the construction of the bridge, the only method to cross the river at Fort Saskatchewan was via ferry.[19] At the time of the bridge's construction, the Edmonton Bulletin described it as the second largest bridge in the CNR.[19] The road deck was narrow enough to necessitate one-way traffic, and traffic lights were later installed on each side of the bridge to help prevent collisions.[20] Issues arose when drivers ignored the traffic lights at night, and proceeded if they did not see any oncoming headlights; regardless of whether they had a green light or not.[20] As well, a heavy vehicle struck the bridge in 1950, and a girder was forced 18 inches (46 cm) out of alignment by the impact.[20] The safety concerns illustrated by these two factors caused the province to open a new two-lane bridge downstream of the railway bridge.[20] After the new bridge opened in 1957, the rail bridge's lower vehicle deck was closed and dismantled.[20]

The train station and the railway line through Fort Saskatchewan were in use until the late 1980s.[17] Declining rail traffic and safety concerns regarding the transportation of dangerous goods prompted the Canadian National Railway to divert the line away from the city's non-industrial areas.[17] The station and its property, including the railway track directly in front of it, were sold to the Province of Alberta, which immediately re-sold it to Fort Saskatchewan.[17] The train bridge was demolished soon after the rail line was diverted.[21][22] As of 1987, all freight and passenger rail connections occur in Edmonton, and a new bridge allows for trains to directly enter and leave Fort Saskatchewan's industrial area without travelling through other parts of the city.[17]

Combined fire and town hall[edit]

The Fort Saskatchewan Fire Department gathered outside of the combined fire/town hall in 1910.

In 1905, town council, which was meeting in the Odd Fellows' Hall, voted on the construction of a combined fire and town hall.[15] The building would also contain two cells for police use.[15] The council originally voted to purchase land behind the Queen's Hotel for $675 to accommodate the new building, but a public petition successfully persuaded council to instead purchase land on the north-west corner of 100 Avenue and 103 Street for $1,250.[15] Local taxpayers voted for $6000 to be spent on the construction of the building, and $7000 on fire-fighting equipment.[15]

The fire and town hall was completed in 1906; the fire department occupied the bottom level, and the town hall and council chamber were located on the upper floor.[15] The fire department occupied the bottom floor until 1958, while the town hall was located in the building until 1970.[15] The building is now privately owned, and occupied by an insurance broker.[23]

Hydroelectric dam[edit]

In 1910, after purchasing the Fort Electric Company, Fort Saskatchewan's town council voted to purchase land near the mouth of the Sturgeon River, and construct a $30,000 wooden hydroelectric dam and power plant, which was expected to last approximately 20 years.[24] However, the town had to take over construction of the dam and plant in 1911 after the contracted firm went bankrupt.[24] In June 1911, there were two separate instances where water rose above the dam and flooded the construction area.[24] By its completion in December 1911, the town had spent $80,000 on the entire project.[24] There were minor leaks detected throughout the next few months, and the plant had to be completely shut down in April 1912 after a washout at the penstock damaged the canal, a bulkhead, and parts of the natural riverbank.[24] This event was blamed on faulty construction.[24]

After looking into different repair options, the town decided in September 1912 that there was no cost-effective way to repair the dam.[24] The town instead retrofitted its old power house for $3000, and absorbed the financial losses associated with prematurely decommissioning the dam.[24] The power plant on the grounds of the gaol supplied the entire town for eight years, during-which the town faced numerous issues with residents neglecting to pay their power bills.[24] In June 1928, the town finalized an agreement for Calgary Power to purchase the town's equipment for $26,000, and for the company to supply the town with power for ten years.[24]

Public emergencies[edit]

Downtown fire[edit]
A fire insurance map for Fort Saskatchewan published in 1912, but revised in 1913 after the downtown fire. The darker patches indicate the extent of the damage caused by the fire, because the revisions were pasted on top of the original map.

On January 21, 1913, a fire swept through a large portion of the town's business section.[24] It is thought to have started in the Queen's hotel, before quickly leaping across the street to nearby buildings.[24] The fire department struggled to start their fire engine, their hose froze, and by the time they got their equipment working the fire was too large to be contained.[24]

S. O. Jones, Fort Saskatchewan's fire chief, was with his son in Edmonton when he was notified of the fire; in order to reach the blaze, he had to race to the local CNR station in a taxi to catch a train bound for Fort Saskatchewan.[24] His taxi nearly hit a police officer, who attempted to stop the speeding taxi by running in front of it, not knowing why it was in such a hurry.[24] Jones made it to the train station, but was arrested by a police officer who was waiting for him after being contacted by the officer who was almost hit by the taxi.[24] The subsequent court case was dismissed after it was realized that Jones was Fort Saskatchewan's fire chief, and he was told that he could drive as fast as needed in Edmonton.[24][relevant?]

Five businesses were lost to the fire, costing a total of $24,000 of damages.[24] These businesses were mainly located in the Fetherstonhaugh Block.[24] In the spring of 1913, construction began on $69,500 worth of buildings in the business section.[24] These new buildings included the Williamson Block, which replaced the Fetherstonhaugh Block, and a new Queen's Hotel, which was renamed the Fort Hotel in 1933.[24]

1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic[edit]

In response to the worsening influenza outbreak, commonly referred to as the Spanish Flu, the local Board of Health placed Fort Saskatchewan under quarantine on October 30, 1918.[25] Guards were placed at all of the roads leading into the town, and nobody could enter or leave without a pass from the health board.[25] The town reached 86 cases of the Spanish Flu in November 1918, representing approximately nine percent of its total population.[25] The town did not have its own hospital, so a local home owner, Mrs. Graham, donated her house to be used as a temporary medical facility; four residents would be treated there.[25] In total, three residents died from the Spanish Flu.[25] The town's quarantine lasted for three weeks, and was lifted on November 17, 1918.[25]

The provincial gaol[edit]

The Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Institute in 1982

A new $200,000 provincial gaol opened in 1915 on the site of the old fort, to replace the 34-cell guard house that had been used to hold prisoners since the NWMP fort was constructed in 1875.[24] This was necessary because by the early 1900s, the old guard house was often filled beyond capacity; in August 1912, it held up to 71 prisoners at one time.[24] The fort was demolished after the gaol opened, and in 1927 the prison's warden unveiled a cairn on the site of the old guard room, made from stones taken from its foundation, to commemorate the old fort.[24]

There were various additions to the jail throughout the next 70 years, including the construction of more cell blocks, a gymnasium, a stand-alone power plant, and carpentry, auto body, and licence plate shops.[24] The prison grew food for inmates on a nearby 324-hectare farm.[8] A new house for the warden and his family was completed in 1937, replacing the commanding officer's quarters of 1889.[24] The warden's house was symbolically constructed on municipal grounds near the prison, rather than on the prison grounds themselves.[26] This was meant to provide convenient access to the prison for the warden while normalizing life for the warden's wife and children.[26] The warden's house was converted into office space in early 1973.[24]

The warden's house in June 2020, shortly after being repainted to its original colour scheme

Although the prison was primarily used to house people awaiting their trials or serving sentences of under two years, 29 prisoners were hanged on-site between 1914 and 1960.[8][27] Noteworthy prisoners who were executed include Florence Lassandro (the only woman hanged in Alberta), and Robert Raymond Cook (the last man to be hanged in Alberta).[28][29] By 1973, the jail employed 220 residents[24] and housed 300 male and female offenders.[30] The jail was replaced in 1988 when a new provincial correctional centre, which houses 546 inmates,[31] was built south of Highway 15 (Veterans Way) on 101 Street.[8][32] The jail cell blocks were demolished in 1994.[8] The warden's house is the only remaining structure linked to the old gaol; the last building on the actual prison grounds, the facility workshop, was demolished in 2014.[27] In June 2020, the warden's house was repainted from white and green, to peach, white, and red.[33] This was the original colour scheme of its exterior, but the house was given a green and white coat while being leased by a local non-profit in the early 1990s.[33]

Riot[edit]

On January 19, 1955, 24 hours after the chief guard and two other guards were dismissed, 96 inmates rioted in the prison dining room, led by 12 ringleaders who barricaded themselves in the prison's bakery.[30] Dishes and furniture were thrown about and smashed, and a store room in the bakery was destroyed by fire after the ringleaders torched clothing, boots, and other supplies that they found.[30] Prisoners in a cell block believed to contain rioters shouted phrases such as "Get the story straight" to nearby reporters.[30] They claimed that they rioted because of the food at the gaol.[30] The fire was doused by the local fire department, and the riot was put down by 50 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers from Edmonton, who were armed with tear gas and smoke grenades.[30] After the ringleaders were pulled from the bakery, they were returned to their cells.[30] The prison had previously seen an inmate sit-down in October 1950, and a small disturbance in March 1949, but this was the most significant act of aggression by inmates that the prison had seen.[30] The riot caused $10,000 worth of damage (approximately $97,000 in 2020).[30]

1950–present[edit]

In 1952, Sherritt Gordon Mines started construction on a $25-million nickel refinery in Fort Saskatchewan, which started production in 1954.[34] Following Sherritt Gordon's locating in Fort Saskatchewan, more industries constructed plants in the town. Between 1951 and 1956, the town's population doubled from 1,076 to 2,582.[20] Dow Chemical acquired 700 acres in Fort Saskatchewan in 1959, opening its plant in 1961 and further expanding it in 1967.[35] The population increased from 2,972 in 1961, when operations at Dow began, to 4,152 in 1966.[35]

Fort Saskatchewan in 1980

The Fort Saskatchewan Town Police force (est. 1904) was disbanded in 1972, and the RCMP resumed policing duties in Fort Saskatchewan for the first time since 1917.[8] On August 2, 1978, as part of a royal tour during the XI Commonwealth Games,[36] Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived in Fort Saskatchewan from Vegreville via a special train.[37] The royal couple met with then-Premier Lougheed on the platform of the CNR station, gave a speech to local residents at Turner Park, and then traveled to Edmonton in a limousine.[37]

In 1980, the Town of Fort Saskatchewan elected Muriel Abdurahman (1938–2013), previously a town councilor, as its first female mayor.[38] Abdurahman was elected for a second term in 1983, and she became the first mayor of the City of Fort Saskatchewan after it gained official city status in 1985. She later resigned as mayor to pursue a career in provincial politics,[39] and she was succeeded by Pryce Alderson.[40]

City council was preparing a bylaw to borrow up to $25 million for the construction of City Centre Square, which would include a new city hall and library,[41] as part of the city's 2004 downtown redevelopment plan.[42] Council voted against a motion to put the project to a public plebiscite, as requested by a 1551-signature petition,[41] but was forced to acquiesce when a second petition met the threshold which legally required a plebiscite.[43] The planned design was discarded and, in June 2010, a majority of voters supported a new design with an estimated total cost of $18 million.[44] The expanded city hall officially opened in April 2013, while the public library re-opened in November 2013.[45][46]

On January 1, 2020, the city annexed 952 hectares of land from Strathcona County.[47] The land is mainly located south of the city's old boundaries. Fort Saskatchewan had originally requested 2,000 hectares from Strathcona County, including industrial land to the north, but the two municipalities negotiated an agreement involving less land.[47]

Since Fort Saskatchewan was incorporated as a town in 1904, it has had 30 residents serve as its mayor.[40]

Annexation dispute[edit]

In 1988, Fort Saskatchewan submitted a bid to annex 784 hectares of industrial land to its east from Strathcona County.[48] Dow Chemical was constructing a plant on some of this land, and the refinery was expected to generate $4 million in tax revenues once it was complete.[48] After Fort Saskatchewan declined to split Dow's taxes between the two municipalities, and in protest over being "chiseled away" by its urban neighbours, Strathcona County submitted a counter-bid to the Local Authorities Board in 1989 to retake 1,400 hectares of land from Fort Saskatchewan.[48] The claim encompassed most of Fort Saskatchewan's tax-rich industrial land, which had been ceded to the city in 1959.[48] In the late 1980s, Fort Saskatchewan had the richest tax base in the Edmonton Area, with 74% involving commercial or industrial properties, and it also had the lowest homeowners tax in the region.[48] After the provincial government tried unsuccessfully to mediate an agreement between the two sides in late 1989, the Edmonton Metropolitan Regional Planning Commission voted in 1990 in favour of Fort Saskatchewan's bid, and against Strathcona County's counter-bid.[48]

As the dispute continued into late 1990, Fort Saskatchewan purchased a full-page advertisement in the Edmonton Journal, urging the provincial government to respect the Local Authorities Board's "non-political decision", regardless of what its verdict was.[48] In 1991, the province announced that Fort Saskatchewan's bid was successful, and it would annex 1,144 hectares of land from Strathcona County on December 31, 1991.[48] In turn, the county would be protected from further annexations for 20 years, and the two municipalities would have to reach an agreement on tax-sharing.[48] However, the two sides continued to face difficulties negotiating with one-another, and neither believed that an arbitration process could be agreed upon.[48] In March 1992, a Court of Queen's Bench judge ruled in favour of Strathcona County.[48] He declared that over the next 19 years, the county was to receive approximately $27 million in tax revenue from the land annexed by Fort Saskatchewan, while the city would receive about $55 million of tax revenue over that same period.[48] Mayor Pryce Alderson of Fort Saskatchewan, and Reeve Iris Evans of Strathcona County, issued a joint statement that welcomed the decision, and stated that they would work together on issues that involved them both.[48]

Geography[edit]

Climate[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb) with warm summers and cold winters.[49] Precipitation peaks during summer time, and snowfall peaks from November to January.[50]

Climate data for Fort Saskatchewan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 10.0
(50.0)
15.0
(59.0)
18.9
(66.0)
31.1
(88.0)
33.5
(92.3)
33.4
(92.1)
36.5
(97.7)
36.0
(96.8)
33.3
(91.9)
29.5
(85.1)
19.0
(66.2)
12.5
(54.5)
36.5
(97.7)
Average high °C (°F) −6.5
(20.3)
−3.6
(25.5)
1.7
(35.1)
11.3
(52.3)
17.9
(64.2)
21.2
(70.2)
23.3
(73.9)
22.4
(72.3)
17.2
(63.0)
10.3
(50.5)
−0.4
(31.3)
−5.1
(22.8)
9.1
(48.4)
Daily mean °C (°F) −11.9
(10.6)
−9.3
(15.3)
−3.7
(25.3)
4.9
(40.8)
11.1
(52.0)
15.0
(59.0)
17.1
(62.8)
15.9
(60.6)
10.9
(51.6)
4.4
(39.9)
−5.3
(22.5)
−10.4
(13.3)
3.2
(37.8)
Average low °C (°F) −17.3
(0.9)
−15
(5)
−9
(16)
−1.5
(29.3)
4.3
(39.7)
8.8
(47.8)
10.8
(51.4)
9.4
(48.9)
4.5
(40.1)
−1.6
(29.1)
−10.2
(13.6)
−15.7
(3.7)
−2.7
(27.1)
Record low °C (°F) −45
(−49)
−47.5
(−53.5)
−45.6
(−50.1)
−28
(−18)
−9.5
(14.9)
−3.3
(26.1)
0.5
(32.9)
−1
(30)
−10
(14)
−24.5
(−12.1)
−38.5
(−37.3)
−43.9
(−47.0)
−47.5
(−53.5)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 24.0
(0.94)
12.4
(0.49)
18.7
(0.74)
24.3
(0.96)
43.1
(1.70)
80.0
(3.15)
92.0
(3.62)
55.4
(2.18)
40.8
(1.61)
20.6
(0.81)
23.3
(0.92)
20.2
(0.80)
454.6
(17.90)
Average rainfall mm (inches) 0.6
(0.02)
0.8
(0.03)
0.5
(0.02)
16.2
(0.64)
41.1
(1.62)
80.0
(3.15)
92.0
(3.62)
55.4
(2.18)
40.8
(1.61)
14.3
(0.56)
2.8
(0.11)
0.7
(0.03)
345.2
(13.59)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 23.4
(9.2)
11.6
(4.6)
18.1
(7.1)
8.1
(3.2)
2.0
(0.8)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
6.3
(2.5)
20.5
(8.1)
19.8
(7.8)
109.7
(43.2)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 6.6 5 4.3 6.3 10.2 13.3 14.2 13.5 10.2 6.8 6.4 5.9 102.6
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 0.14 0.21 0.66 5.1 10.1 13.3 14.2 13.5 10.2 6 1.5 0.18 75
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 6.5 4.8 3.7 1.5 0.35 0 0 0 0.07 1 4.9 5.8 28.6
Source 1: Environment Canada[51][52]
Source 2: Precipitation Days Only[53]

Neighbourhoods[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan is divided into seven residential neighbourhoods and two industrial parks:[54]

100th Avenue in downtown Fort Saskatchewan
Residential neighbourhoods
  • Bridgeview
  • Clover Park
  • Downtown
  • Pineview
  • Sherridon
  • Southfort
  • Westpark
Industrial parks
  • Eastgate Business Park
  • Industrial Business Park

Demographics[edit]

Federal census
population history
YearPop.±%
1901306—    
1906585+91.2%
1911782+33.7%
1916993+27.0%
1921982−1.1%
1926943−4.0%
19311,001+6.2%
1936899−10.2%
1941903+0.4%
1946921+2.0%
19511,076+16.8%
19562,582+140.0%
19612,972+15.1%
19664,152+39.7%
19715,726+37.9%
19768,304+45.0%
198112,169+46.5%
198611,983−1.5%
199112,078+0.8%
199612,408+2.7%
200113,121+5.7%
200614,957+14.0%
201119,051+27.4%
201624,149+26.8%
Sources: Statistics Canada and
City of Fort Saskatchewan

[55][56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65]
[66][67][68][69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][3]

The population of the City of Fort Saskatchewan according to its 2019 municipal census is 26,942,[5] a change of 2.3% from its 2018 municipal census population of 26,328.[77] In the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the City of Fort Saskatchewan recorded a population of 24,149 living in 9,261 of its 9,939 total private dwellings, a change of 26.8% from its 2011 population of 19,051. With a land area of 48.18 km2 (18.60 sq mi), it had a population density of 501.2/km2 (1,298.2/sq mi) in 2016.[3]

According to the 2016 census, the largest visible minority populations in the community are Filipino with 535 residents, followed by South Asian with 350 residents.[78] 1,390 residents identified as Aboriginal in 2016: 415 as First Nations, 965 as Métis, and 15 as Inuk (Inuit).[78] 15 residents also claimed multiple Aboriginal identities, bringing the total number of Aboriginal identity claims to 1,410.[78] Regarding the official languages of Canada, 22,160 residents are proficient only in English, 15 are only proficient in French, 1,385 residents are bilingual, and 60 residents are not proficient in either official language.[78]

According to the 2016 census, the top three areas of employment are: Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (3,140 residents), sales and service occupations (2,685), and business, finance and administration occupations (1,915 residents).[78] The top three levels of education are: Post secondary certificate, diploma or degree (10,420 residents), secondary (high) school diploma or equivalency certificate (5,735 residents), and college, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma (4,565 residents).[78]

In the 2011 Census, the City of Fort Saskatchewan had a population of 19,051 living in 7,333 of its 8,109 total dwellings, a change of 27.4% from its 2006 population of 14,957. With a land area of 48.12 km2 (18.58 sq mi), it had a population density of 395.9/km2 (1,025.4/sq mi) in 2011.[76] Residents work mostly in trades (2,130), retail (1,840) or business/finance (1,575).[79]

According to the 2006 census, the largest visible minorities in the community were Chinese with 95 residents followed by Filipino with 55 residents.[79] English was the first language of 91.7% of the population. French (2.2%) was the second most common first language.[79]

Economy[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan's main industries are commercial and heavy industry. Fort Saskatchewan is part of Alberta's Industrial Heartland,[80] the largest Canadian industrial area west of Toronto. Companies with operations in the area include Dow Chemical, Sherritt International, Nutrien (formerly Agrium) and Shell Canada. These plants are major employers for residents of Fort Saskatchewan and the surrounding area.[81]

The city has attracted a number of major retailers including Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Safeway, Federated CO-OP, and Freson Bros.[81] Fort Saskatchewan has also developed as a regional hub for stores and services, serving a catchment area of approximately 75,000 people both locally and from communities to its north and east, including Lamont, Bruderheim, and Redwater.[82]

Fort Station Mall[edit]

A commercial building at the Fort Station Mall

The original Fort Mall was located on a 49,000-square-metre (12-acre) parcel on the east side of downtown, and contained 16,000 square metres (170,000 sq ft) of retail space.[83][84] In February 2003, a new purchaser promised renovations,[85] but the opening of nearby larger Cornerstone Mall that year worsened the mall's situation.[86][87] The planned renovations were never completed, and the mall changed ownership again.[84] In 2007, the owner proposed to demolish part of the mall to construct apartments or condominiums.[88] Foreclosure proceedings began in 2008, and the mall was listed for judicial sale.[89] The initial asking price was $8 million,[90] and a $4 million bid from the City of Fort Saskatchewan in the fall of 2009 was rejected.[91] In February 2010, the mall was relisted for sale at $5 million,[83][92] and a $4.35 million offer accepted by the court in April.[83][93][94]

On September 15, 2015, Haro Developments opened phase one of its redevelopment of the site, which it renamed Fort Station Mall.[95] The majority of the old mall was demolished and replaced with outward-facing commercial units.[82] The site, which is still under development, is now home to a mix of retail, commercial, and residential units. Some of the commercial tenants include a restaurant, a daycare, and a walk-in clinic with a pharmacy.[96] Future plans for development include the construction of additional commercial units, apartments, and an assisted-living facility for seniors.[97] A report commissioned by the City of Fort Saskatchewan noted: "As of 2019, there is another phase of the site, yet to be redeveloped, but the project continues to progress towards completion."[82]

Attractions[edit]

Recreational[edit]

The Dow Centennial Centre

The centerpiece of Fort Saskatchewan's recreation and culture is the Dow Centennial Centre (DCC), a multi-use facility that includes an ice arena, gymnasium, field house, indoor track and fitness centre.[98] The facility, which opened in September 2004, also features a 550-seat performing arts theatre, a permanent art gallery with monthly shows, a banquet hall and the local pottery guild.[99]

The city has two other indoor ice arenas: the Jubilee Recreation Centre and the Sportsplex, that are used during the winter months by hockey, ringette and figure skating associations. In the summer months, the lacrosse association uses them. Fort Saskatchewan also has the Harbour Pool, which is an indoor swimming pool that includes a hot tub, sauna and slide. The city opened Taurus Field in 2018 – a FIFA-certified artificial turf field for soccer and football matches. It features seating for more than 1000 people, a press box, four large dressing rooms, and lights surrounding the field.[100]

The Fort Saskatchewan Curling Club

There is one nine-hole golf course located within the city's boundaries, and a curling club, with six sheets of ice, across the street from it; they are both operated by the Fort Golf and Curling Club.[101] The city's west end features a boat launch into the North Saskatchewan River, called Red Coat Landing, and a provincially preserved natural area, called the Fort Saskatchewan Prairie. The Elk Island National Park, which is known for its bison, is located southeast of the city.

Trail network[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan has over 75 km (47 mi) of paved multi-use trails, including approximately 20 km (12 mi) throughout the river valley, and the city's parks.[102][103] A pedestrian bridge is currently being built across the North Saskatchewan River to connect Fort Saskatchewan's trail network to Sturgeon County's trails.[104] This is part of the Trans Canada Trail network, reflecting Fort Saskatchewan's status as a hub for numerous provincial and national trails.[105][106] Fort Saskatchewan's river valley trail network consists of the following ten routes:[107]

  • Alderson Loop – 3.3 km (2.1 mi);
  • Bridgeview Trail – 0.9 km (0.56 mi);
  • Chabot Park Link – 1.9 km (1.2 mi);
  • Heritage Precinct Loop – 1.2 km (0.75 mi);
  • North 10K – 10.1 km (6.3 mi);
  • Pineview Loop – 6.6 km (4.1 mi);
  • Ross Creek Trail – 2.1 km (1.3 mi);
  • South 10K – 9.9 km (6.2 mi);
  • Turner Park Trail – 1.1 km (0.68 mi); and
  • West River's Edge (WRE) Loop – 5.1 km (3.2 mi).

Cultural[edit]

The Fort Heritage Precinct
The Shell Theatre inside the Dow Centennial Centre

The 11-hectare Fort Heritage Precinct is a municipally operated museum and historic site. It contains a variety of historically significant buildings from the Fort Saskatchewan District and together form a historical village.[18][108][109] The village features a red brick courthouse constructed in 1909, which is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.[110] The historical village also contains Soda Lake Church, Castle School, the Dr. Thomas William Everard (Twe) Henry house, and the Ludwig Kulak homestead – all four structures were relocated to the site from their respective locations around the City and the region.[18][111] A large machine shed and a blacksmith shop were completed in the spring of 1972, when the site of the historical village was initially being prepared.[18]

The Fort Heritage Precinct also features the Fort Saskatchewan Canadian Northern Railway Station, built in 1905, and a full-scale replica of the original NWMP fort, which can be explored in guided tours.[112] Phase one of the replica fort, which included the Men's Quarters and the Officers' Quarters, opened in 2011.[8] The fort also features a horse stable, a guard room with jail cells, and an ice house which was completed in the summer of 2015.[109][113] The replica fort was constructed beside the site of the original fort to preserve the original site's archaeological integrity.[114] The city has placed six sets of wooden markers to show the position of the original fort: one marker is at each of the four corners where the wall once stood, and two sets of markers indicate the positions of the original east and west gates (which provided access to the settlement and to the river respectively).[115]

Every May, the Fort Saskatchewan Historical Society (est. 1958) hosts a two-day event called "The Peoples of the North Saskatchewan" at the Fort Heritage Precinct.[116] This event allows local students to experience what life was like for residents in the early days of settlement. Activities include butter making, tug-of-war, and weaving.[116] There are also opportunities to learn about Indigenous cultures, and students are able to ride a replica Red River Cart.[116]

Markers indicate the original west entrance to the old North-West Mounted Police Fort, with the replica fort in the background.
The replica of the original Fort Saskatchewan

Fort Saskatchewan is served by the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library located on 102 Street, in the same building as City Hall. The city is also home to a local theatre group, called The Sheeptown Players Drama Society, which regularly performs throughout the community.[117]

Sports[edit]

The Pyramid Corp. Hawks of the Capital Junior Hockey League play out of the Jubilee Recreation Centre.[118] The Fort Saskatchewan Traders, of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, were long a part of the city. After the 2006–07 season, the team relocated to St. Albert and was renamed the St. Albert Steel.[119]

Fort Saskatchewan is home to the Heartland Roller Derby Association (HRDA), a flat-track roller-derby league formed in 2016.[120]

Fort Saskatchewan has a youth sports association for hockey, soccer (indoor and outdoor), baseball, ringette, indoor lacrosse, and figure skating. It also has sports associations for cross-country skiing and swimming.[121]

Infrastructure[edit]

Emergency services[edit]

Policing[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan is served by an RCMP detachment,[122] which is part of Alberta's K Division. In 2015, the detachment moved into a new 5,100 m2 (55,000 sq ft) station, which also houses the city's protective services and municipal enforcement personnel.[123] A local police official predicted that the new location, which provides direct access to Highway 21 (Veterans Way), would allow officers to cut emergency response times by 60–90 seconds.[32][123] The station features a boardroom that local organizations are able to use.[123] The Families First Society, a local not-for-profit resource centre for families, parents, and children, moved into the old police station in April 2016.[124]

Fire department[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan Fire Department's Walter Thomas Station

The Fort Saskatchewan Fire Department (est. 1906), based at the Walter Thomas Fire Station, is staffed by 12 full-time firefighters who are supported by paid volunteers, and three full-time administrative staff.[125] The full-time firefighters rotate between a 10-hour day shift and a 14-hour night shift.[125] The full-time staffing model was introduced in early 2020.[126] Prior to its introduction, the fire station was vacant after 5:30 pm on a daily basis, and paid on-call volunteers would have to travel to the station from wherever they were before they could respond to an emergency.[126]

Members of the Fort Saskatchewan Fire Department conduct a nighttime training exercise

The introduction of full-time staff has reduced response times from up to 15 minutes, to a standard of 105 seconds.[126] New sleeping quarters were constructed at the fire station to accommodate the full-time staff.[125]

The city purchased property for a second fire station in 2017, reflecting the increase in call volumes coming from its newer neighbourhoods.[127]

Fort Saskatchewan was also home to Canada's longest serving firefighter: Walter Thomas (1922–2017).[128] Walter joined the department on May 1, 1947, and served until May 2017,[129] a few months before he died. Walter's last position in the department was as its official historian.[128]

Public health[edit]

The Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital

Fort Saskatchewan has one hospital – the 38-bed Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital.[130] It opened in 2012 to replace the city's aging health centre.[131] It is attached to a new health facility that provides home care, mental health, rehabilitation, community health, and child and family services.[131]

The city also has a 58-bed, public-operated, supportive-living seniors lodge, called Dr. Turner Lodge. Southfort Bend, a privately operated facility, also has supportive living for seniors. The lone assisted-living facility in Fort Saskatchewan, the Rivercrest Care Centre, is also home to a hospice.[132]

Fort Saskatchewan is home to the Fort Air Partnership (FAP), a non-profit organization that monitors the air quality of the 4,500-square-kilometre (1,700 sq mi) airshed located immediately north and east of Edmonton.[133] The FAP maintains 10 continuous monitoring stations, three of which are located in Fort Saskatchewan, and 47 passive monitoring stations.[133] Their live data is available on their website 24 hours a day.

Public transit[edit]

Fort Sask Transit (FST) operates two daily routes for the general public, and one semi-weekly route for the city's senior population.[134] The two daily routes, 582 (the "Blue Route"), and 583 (the "Red Route"), mostly traverse the same parts of the city, but go in opposite directions.[134] Route 584 (the "Green Route"), which is semi-weekly, provides access to assisted-living facilities, doctors offices, commercial centres, and other amenities required by its riders.[134] To help facilitate regional travel, Edmonton Transit Service is contracted by Fort Saskatchewan to operate route 580, which provides peak-hour service between Fort Saskatchewan and the Clareview Transit Centre in Edmonton.[134] All three local routes, as well as route 580, converge at the FST park and ride, as well as at the North Transfer Station on 99th Ave.[134] All of FST's buses are accessible to riders with mobility issues, and the Special Transportation Service Society (STSS), a volunteer service operated by the Fort Saskatchewan Lions Club, offers a specialized minivan service for people who cannot use regular transit options because of physical disabilities.[134]

Fort Saskatchewan is a member of the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission, which will begin service in mid-2022.[135]

Utilities[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan's water is supplied by the Capital Region Northeast Water Services Commission (CRNWSC).[136] The commission purchases water from the Edmonton-based utilities company EPCOR, which supplies treated water from the North Saskatchewan River.[136] Fort Saskatchewan's waste water is treated at a facility in Strathcona County, which is owned by the Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission (ACRWC).[137] EPCOR provides the Regulated Retail Offering (RRO) for electricity in Fort Saskatchewan, and the wire service (distribution and transmission) is provided by Fortis Alberta.[138] Direct Energy Regulated Services (DERS) provides regulated natural gas to the city, and its distribution is provided by ATCO.[138]

Waste management[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan's residents separate their household waste into three categories: organic waste is put into green bins, garbage is picked up in black bins, and recycling is collected in blue bags.[139] The three-stream system was introduced in June 2018, after a successful pilot program.[140] Garbage is collected bi-weekly, organics are collected weekly or bi-weekly depending on the time of year, and recycling is collected weekly.[139] Blue bins were used for recycling in the pilot program, but the city reverted to blue bags when launching the new waste system city-wide.[140] This was because objects could get jammed in the blue bins, and crews could not easily tell if the loads inside blue bins were contaminated like they could with blue bags.[140] Prior to the introduction of this system, the municipality contracted out collection of garbage and recycling only; recycling was collected in blue bags, but garbage cans were not regulated by the city.

Government[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan City Hall and Public Library

Fort Saskatchewan is directly governed by a city council consisting of one mayor and six councillors.[141] Municipal elections, which are non-partisan, occur every four years on the third Monday in October.[142][143] The last election was held on October 16, 2017 where Gale Katchur was re-elected for a third term as mayor.[141] The mayor is elected separately from the councillors, who are elected at-large (as opposed to the ward system).[144]

At the provincial level of government, Fort Saskatchewan is part of the Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville riding, which is currently represented by Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk (United Conservative Party).[145]

At the federal level, Fort Saskatchewan is part of the Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan riding and is represented by Garnett Genuis (Conservative Party of Canada).[145]

Education[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan currently has no post-secondary schools that are open to the public, but its corrections centre partners with NorQuest College to provide academic upgrading, personal development courses, and employment training courses to inmates.[146] Most residents of Fort Saskatchewan commute or move to Edmonton to attend post-secondary classes at the University of Alberta, MacEwan University, or NAIT.[147]

Fort Saskatchewan's schools are governed by two different school boards – Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) and Elk Island Catholic Schools (EICS). Both school boards have their head offices located in Sherwood Park.[148][149] Fort Saskatchewan's elected trustees on the EIPS board are Heather Wall and Harvey Stadnick.[150] Al Stewart is the lone Fort Saskatchewan trustee on the EICS board.[151]

The following schools are located in Fort Saskatchewan:[152][153]

Elementary schools
  • École Parc Élémentaire (K–6)
  • Fort Saskatchewan Christian School (Grades K–9)
  • Fort Saskatchewan Elementary School (Grades K–6)
  • James Mowat Elementary School (Grades K–6)
  • Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School (Grades K–4)
  • Saint John XXIII Catholic School (Grades K–4)
  • Southpointe School (Grades K–8)
  • Win Ferguson Community School (Grades K–6)
Junior high schools
  • Fort Saskatchewan Christian School (Grades K–9)
  • Rudolph Hennig Junior High (7–9)
  • St. John Paul II Catholic School (5–8)
High schools
  • Fort Saskatchewan High School (Grades 10–12)
  • Next Step Senior High School (Grades 10–12 alternative program)
  • St. Andre Bessette Catholic School (9–12)

Media[edit]

Fort Saskatchewan has two local newspapers. The Fort Saskatchewan Record (The Fort Record) is a weekly home-delivered newspaper published on Thursdays. It took over the offices and plant of The Conservator, the previous weekly newspaper, and was first published on Wednesday, April 5, 1922.[154] The Sturgeon Creek Post, established in 1996, is a weekly newspaper published on Wednesdays that is available at local businesses and newsstands. The Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun are also distributed in the community.

Fort Saskatchewan has one local radio station that broadcasts live on air. It is branded Mix 107.9 FM, and it is owned by Golden West Broadcasting.[155] Fort Saskatchewan also had an internet radio station named FortRadio.com, which came online in November 2010.[156]

Notable people[edit]

Henry Louis Norwest in 1915

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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