The provincial government has extended a five-year heritage site management agreement with the Friends of Fort Steele Society.
Fort Steele, a provincially-owned heritage property near Cranbrook, has been operated by the Friends of Fort Steele Society since 2004 and showcases what the pioneer community was like in the late 1800s.
“The Friends of Fort Steele board of directors and staff are honoured to receive a five-year extension of the Heritage Site Management Agreement in acknowledgement of our stewardship of this incredible place,” said Jessica Marusyk, Friends of Fort Steele general manager. “Since 2004, we’ve realized many exciting events and conservation projects, including the hugely popular summer programming, the opening of the renovated McVittie House and the rehabilitation and reopening of the Windsor Hotel for business. The Friends are excited to take Fort Steele to new heights to see the past and future of this extraordinary townsite and landscape come together as one cohesive mix of history and interpretation.”
Europeans came and settled in the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa after the discovery of gold up the Wildhorse Creek in the 1860s. The fort was named after Sam Steele — a lawman with the North-West Mounted Police — who was stationed at the town for a time in the late 1880s.
Due to lobbying from Col. James Baker, Fort Steele was bypassed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in favour of Cranbrook, which constructed a line through the Key City in 1898.
“This historic town is steeped in the past, but deeply connected to the present and the surrounding community,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “The society has been an exemplary steward of the property, safeguarding the heritage values that reflect its provincial significance, while increasing visitation.”
Fort Steele hosts up to 50,000 visitors a year, on average, to take in attractions such as the Wildhorse Theatre, Clydesdale horses and a restored steam engine locomotive.
Further planned developments at the site include restoring a historic hotel as a bed and breakfast, a new campsite and children’s playground, a hiking and biking trail system and a livestock breeding program for Clydesdale horses and heritage pigs.
Further future goals for the society inlcude digitizing a collection of artifacts and working with First Nations to expand programs and workshops that promote the Indigenous cultural significance of the land as well as stories of Indigenous-settler relations.