Interpretive trail already drawing interest

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Work is not yet complete on a new trail in Turner Valley, but residents are already taking full advantage of the views.

Construction of the Jack Bowman Interpretive Trail began late last summer. Three areas were cleared along a paved pathway overlooking the Sheep River valley and Turner Valley Gas Plant. Fencing and benches were installed this fall. Three picnic tables and 11 interpretive signs containing historical facts about the area’s oil and gas industry will be installed in the spring.

“We probably could have pushed and got everything done and finished in late fall if we had really felt it was the right thing to do,” said Ron McLaren, a former employee at the Turner Valley Gas Plant who has been assisting with the project. “We were running out of time and we just felt that completing everything in the spring will give us a little bit of extra time.”

McLaren said work is currently being done designing the 11 signs to line the route, which he expects to be complete in January.

“We’re trying to put a historical story together that is going to be there for people to see and understand more about the Turner Valley oilfield,” he said. “We hired somebody to do a professional design on them. We are just tweaking the signs as we speak.”

The interpretive trail is a joint initiative between the Turner Valley Oilfields Society and Town of Turner Valley that honours former gas plant superintendent Jack Bowman and commemorates the discovery of oil in 1914 that helped start the development of the oil and gas industry in Alberta.

The Turner Valley Gas Plant was Canada’s first petroleum processing facility west of Ontario. It operated on the banks of the Sheep River before closing in 1985 and now serves as a designated federal and provincial historic site.

Jack Bowman was the superintendent of the plant from the 1960s to 1980s and played an important role in the operations of the Turner Valley Golf Club, which the interpretive trail borders.

With the clearing complete and two benches located at each site, McLaren said the Jack Bowman Interpretive Trail is already becoming a destination among residents.

“It’s really getting a lot of use by people for walking and running and biking,” he said. “People are certainly enjoying the view over there now. It’s a beautiful view and it’s going to become a very popular spot for hikers, runners and bikes to take a couple of minutes out to enjoy the view and learn a little bit about the history of the Turner Valley oilfield.”

Project leader Rod Mumby, director with the Turner Valley Oilfields Society, said the approximately $40,000 project has received a lot of support from the community.

In addition to a $25,000 grant from the Crescent Point Community Foundation and the society’s own contributions, the oilfield society received enough sponsorship to pay for six benches and three picnic tables.

Mumby said the public seems to be happy with how it’s turning out.

“Everybody who sees it and comments on it thinks it’s excellent,” she said. “There’s been a lot of very positive comments about it and as we add the tables and the signs it will just make it that much better for everybody to understand the true significance of the sites.”

The goal of the project is to improve education relating to the energy sector among community members and visitors, said Mumby.

“When they use that trail they stop and read all the signs and they learn something about the history of not only the community but of the original energy literacy in our province,” he said. “We have some of the best history in the province. We need to exploit it. We need to make it so people can got to the place and actually learn about it.”

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