The Historic Turner Valley Gas Plant
Historic Turner Valley Gas Plant is now in its beginning stages of development as a Provincial Historic Site. Alberta Culture and Tourism has been touring interested visitors through the old industrial workings off and on since 1995, but in summer 2015 the site will open its new administrative centre in the rehabilitated plant office/laboratory. Phase 1 of five ultimate phases, the site’s administrative office will house permanent and seasonal staff, and until Phases 2 and 3 are complete it will offer visitor amenities such as modern washrooms and a small temporary interpretive exhibit. While a full interpretative program will not be offered this season, it may be possible for groups to book special tours through donation by contacting the site supervisor, Rick Green, at 403-297-4049 (or through firstname.lastname@example.org).
The interpretive development of the historic gas plant has been quite slow primarily because the province has devoted most of the human and fiscal resources dedicated to the plant site to the environmental clean-up of the buildings and grounds, thereby making them safe for staff and visitors alike. Alberta Culture and Tourism was allowed to perform site reclamation on a risk management basis, which permitted the preservation of the buildings, vessels, equipment, and machinery, much of which dates back to the early 1930s.
Meanwhile, successive flood events has made it imperative to protect the Sheep River from any migrating contaminants in the ground water. The construction of an impermeable barrier within a high berm that keeps the Sheep River from flooding the gas plant was the solution, at the same time keeping the gas plant from contaminating the river. An ongoing monitoring program ensures site safety throughout the complex, including the two original wells in the Turner Valley Oil Field, the discovery well, Dingman No. 1, and its successor, Dingman No. 2.
One of the original buildings built in 1921 during the Royalite Oil Company era still stands. It will become the site’s principal interpretive centre in Phase 3 development. Ultimately, the site development will also include the rehabilitation of the site’s garage, light plant, machine shop, and welding shop to serve as the gateway and visitor services building, a small conference and education centre, and the site conservation shop. A high ramp with numerous interpretive nodes will take the visitor to a 360 degree viewing platform atop one of the site’s tall towers. This part of the historic site will be a self-guided area, while the rest of the plant will be fenced and available only through scheduled guided tours.
The Turner Valley Gas Plant is one of Alberta’s most significant historic places. It signalled the beginning of the province as a petroleum-based energy power, and made Calgary the head office city it is today. As a Provincial Historic Site it will welcome visitors from all over Canada, the United States, and overseas. It will become a centre of educational exploration about the new developments in industrial reclamation, history of southern Alberta, and the petroleum industry. It will be a place in which Albertans can take considerable pride.
By: Ian Clarke, Director (retired)
Turner Valley Gas Plant Provincial Historic Site