On July 1, Edmontonians will be able to take a trip to Fort Edmonton Park for the first time since September 2018. The reopening comes after a three-year, $165-million renovation project meant to provide the park with a series of upgrades, as well as introduce several new features and exhibitions.
The renovation project was a joint endeavour between Fort Edmonton Management Company, the City of Edmonton, the Government of Alberta and the federal government. According to Renée Williams, senior vice president at Fort Edmonton Management Company, the wholesale upgrades were part of an effort to bring the park into the present, as well as orient it towards the future.
“It’s really important to continue to grow and develop attractions, and Fort Edmonton needed to have many things done to it, like our utility work,” Williams says over the phone. “It’s just another way to continue to enhance the offering from a cultural attraction perspective. [The park] was ready for some upgrades on some things, but we also wanted to add to it.”
Edmontonians are no strangers to construction, but fortunately, they shouldn’t expect to see any orange safety vests during upcoming trips to Fort Edmonton Park. “We may have the odd thing behind the scenes, but not for guests to see by any stretch,” Williams adds. Instead, visitors can look forward to old favourites like the carousel and swing ride in the park’s 1920s-style midway, as well as the new Ferris wheel, outdoor maze, funhouse and expanded game selection.
Another addition to the park is the Indigenous Peoples Experience, a new feature exhibit that guides visitors through history of the amiskwaciy region (Edmonton), the traditional meeting grounds of the Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Blackfoot and Métis peoples. Conversations regarding the creation of the exhibit stretch as far back as 2009 and, according to Williams, its inclusion was one of the renovation project’s driving factors.
“There’s been a lot of long conversations that have extended well over a decade to create an Indigenous Peoples Experience,” Williams says. “That was really the catalyst for putting forward the granting application in the agreement to get the support from all three levels of government.”
Covering 30,000 square feet of Fort Edmonton Park’s 160 acre property, the Indigenous Peoples Experience is the result of a partnership between Fort Edmonton Management Company, the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and the Métis Nation of Alberta. The exhibit educates visitors about traditional Indigenous customs and practices, the realities of the colonial era and the enduring legacies of the residential school system, as well as exposes them to Indigenous community leaders making a difference in the city right now.
“It’s not shied away from because it’s a real part of history,” Williams says. “To ensure its authenticity and uniqueness, all of our staff in there are of Indigenous background. They’ve gone through some training as well for their own triggers, and what they need to be mindful of themselves providing the guest experience.”
Although July 1 is the beginning of Stage 3 of the province’s Open for Summer Plan, COVID-19 restrictions will be in keeping with City of Edmonton guidelines. There will also be accommodations made to help visitors cope with the ongoing heatwave.
Tickets to Fort Edmonton Park can be purchased through its website.