“The community and its strength are the best things about Fort McMurray.”
The Fort McMurray flood of 2013 is almost a footnote in the history of the town. it wasn’t as bad as the one that hit Calgary, which became news of the year, and the fire of 2016 dwarfed everything in terms of YMM disasters. But there was one place it hit really hard. The Heritage Society nestles in next to the Hangingstone River. During the flood, it became part of the river. All the historical buildings were damaged in some way and the entire park shut down. It was not to open for four years.
Tammy has been in YMM for 14 years. She started at the Society doing a contract job, writing the timeline of Fort McMurray. Then she did some grant writing, then she worked on some programs. She works there full time now and over the years she has seen about 10,000 kids come through the Park gates, visiting on school tours or coming to the Summer Camps. “Teaching kids about the history of where they live is so important, and it’s relatable,” she says. “They see names in here that are part of their town and it becomes more personal and interesting.”
One of the projects Tammy is most proud of is the Chevron Open Minds. It’s is an innovative, learning program that provides a hands-on, out-of-classroom experience for students, focusing on observation, writing and critical-thinking skills. Chevron has based one of them at Heritage Park for a number of years now, and Tammy sees that connection with the schools as an important function of the work of the park.
That’s not all. From the time the park was flooded, Tammy was part of the team bringing the waterfront park to readiness. It opened in 2016 and the main park, redone, redesigned and rejuvenated, was a huge success when it reopened in 2017. “This community has been through so much,” said Tammy, “I love it for its strength in adversity.”