FortWhyte Alive takes its name from the surrounding neighbourhood, which in turn was named during Winnipeg’s early years. In 1881, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) had a monopoly on rail transport in Western Canada. The man responsible for maintaining this arrangement was William Whyte, Vice President of the CPR.
When the citizens of Manitoba attempted to break the monopoly by building their own railways, Whyte blocked the tracks, and sent in armed CPR workers to ensure no work could be completed. New tracks were laid in daylight, and torn up at night. The area of the stand-off between the CPR and the Manitobans was dubbed “Fort Whyte” by the press.
After a few tense weeks, the Supreme Court ruled Manitoba had the right to build its railway, and a serious fight was averted. The name Fort Whyte stuck.
Starting in 1907, The Canada Cement Company (now Lafarge Inc.) used much of what is now FortWhyte Alive to mine clay and gravel to make cement. By the 1950’s, floods and other sources of clay made the Fort Whyte site obsolete. The Wildlife Foundation of Manitoba saw the old industrial site as potential habitat, and started reclamation work here.
By the 1980’s, focus shifted from wildlife conservation to environmental education, and the current Fort Whyte Foundation was established. Our trails and Interpretive Centre opened in 1983.
The last 30 years have seen growth to the north, adding prairie grassland to our forests and wetlands, and growth of our environmental education programs.