Locals commonly refer to these Northern communities of Fort McMurray as the "North side of the bridge" or simply
lumped together as "the NW". A popular choice for young families given the access to schools, restaurants,
shopping, amenities and services.
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A Brief History a Fort McMurray:
Nestled in a forest valley where the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers meet is Wood Buffalo’s urban centre, the community of Fort McMurray. Originally established as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post in 1870, today Fort McMurray draws attention from around the world as the residential and commercial focal point of Canada’s oil sands industry.
Modern Fort McMurray was born in 1964 when Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor Energy Inc.) was given permission to start construction on a plant to separate the bitumen from the oil sands. The town grew from 2,614 in 1966, to 10,000 by the mid-1970s. Ten years later, with a second project led by Syncrude Canada, the population grew to nearly 37,000. In the late 1990s, Fort McMurray saw another jump in population to 47,705, brought on by increased demand for oil resulting from high world oil prices, a new Alberta government royalty regime and the advent of new technologies, i.e., steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Virtually all key global and national oil companies had a stake in the oil sands. Between 2011 and 2015 Fort McMurray’s population increased again, from 61,374 to 82,724 — nearly a 35 per cent increase.
The growth of the last decade put incredible pressures on transportation, housing, social services, and municipal services such as sewage and water. Fort McMurray lacked the land required to keep pace with residential developments, a problem the Alberta government helped to remedy beginning in 2012 by transferring crown land to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). Fort McMurray is made up of eight neighbourhoods: Abasand Heights, Beacon Hill, Gregoire, the Lower Townsite, Parsons Creek, Thickwood Heights, Timberlea and Waterways. In addition to Fort McMurray, the RMWB includes nine smaller communities: Anzac, Conklin, Draper, Fort Chipewyan, Fort Fitzgerald, Fort McKay, Gregoire Lake Estates, Janvier, Saprae Creek Estates, as well as five First Nations communities and six Métis Locals.
According to the 2015 municipal census, approximately 82,724 people live in Fort McMurray. Residents come from all regions of Canada and around the world.1
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