Gas Plant's significance celebrated

Turner Valley: Centennial events brings thousands to national historic site

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 06:00 am

Thousands of people attended tours of the national historic Turner Valley Gas Plant on May 14. The occasion marked the 100th anniversary of the Dingman No. 1.
Thousands of people attended tours of the national historic Turner Valley Gas Plant on May 14. The occasion marked the 100th anniversary of the Dingman No. 1.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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A Calgary man fulfilled his dream as he wandered through deteriorating buildings looking at what was once a state-of-the-art oil and gas facility.

Larry Dornan had been wanting to tour the Turner Valley Gas Plant for years, and said it was a dream come true to finally have that opportunity at the centennial celebration of the discovery of oil and gas in Turner Valley on May 14.

“It was a good day for me to be here,” he said. “It instils in your memory how important it is in Alberta to be sitting on top of this sour gas.”

Dornan, who worked in the oil and gas industry in Edmonton for 13 years and taught engineering at the University of Calgary for another 25, spent the day in awe.

“The tour today brought back a lot of memories of when I was teaching at the university,” he said. “The gas processing plant was the most interesting to me because that’s what I was teaching at the university.”

Alberta Culture, oil and gas businesses, organizations and representatives from the towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley hosted the celebration offering tours led by interpreters in period clothing, an interpretive centre, entertainment, a formal program with speeches from, government and oil and gas company representatives.

The Turner Valley Gas Plant is open to tours by appointment only while the site undergoes millions of dollars worth of restoration and remediation work to deem it safe for visitors year-round.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife Laureen, who grew up in Diamond Valley, spent hours touring the site and viewing the interpretive centre in a place she fondly remembers from her childhood.

During a speech to hundreds in attendance, Harper reminisced about her grandfather working at the gas plant and visiting him at the gates as the whistle blew marking the end of the work day.

Harper was also brought back to her childhood years as she listened to Turner Valley School students sing O’ Canada, having attended the school herself as a child.

It was also a proud moment for Turner Valley Mayor Kelly Tuck as she watched hundreds of people tour the site and listened to the town’s students sing the Pump Jack song written specifically for the occasion.

“I think the community should be pleased,” said Tuck. “Dingman No. 1 is not just about the town of Turner Valley, it’s about the province of Alberta and Canada.”

Attending the centennial celebration was a much-anticipated event for Black Diamond residents Dan and Barb Ducharme, who have been curious about the historic site since moving to Black Diamond seven years ago.

“It was a great time, very informative,” said Barb.

Dan said he enjoyed touring the various buildings and looking at the equipment used decades ago.

“It’s nice to see how they used to do it 100 years ago,” he said.

More than 900 students from schools in Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Millarville and Longview got a history lesson like no other.

“I’ve always wondered what it was,” said Longview School Grade 5 student Cooper Bews of the gas plant, adding his family drives by the site regularly. “It’s really cool because 100 years ago they drilled oil and we still have it today. It’s just cool to see what it was like 100 years ago.”

Oilfields High School student Monica Zacaruk said the Turner Valley Gas Plant held no importance for her prior to the tour.

“I didn’t know what the place was before now,” she said. “It kind of goes unnoticed.”

Having the opportunity to learn its significant gave the Grade 9 student a new appreciation for the role her community played in Alberta.

“When you have something like this it shows you your town has more history than you realized,” she said. “It shows technology was quite (advanced), even 100 years ago.”

Loretta Stabler, a retired teacher with Millarville Community School who joined students on a field trip to the site, said the tours provide a unique outlook on a critical piece of history.

“For the students it was a good look at how things were,” she said. “You still see the oil derrick as part of the landscape, but we now have some in depth understanding of what it was like. Because it’s in our community it’s so important for them to relate to it and know a little bit about it.”


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