Locals commonly refer to the 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 with access to schools, restaurants,
shopping, amenities and services.
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A Brief History of Fort McMurray:
Nestled in a forest valley where the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers meet, is Wood Buffalo’s urban centre, the urban service area 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 bitumen from 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 Ltd., 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 government royalty regime and the advent of new technologies, i.e., truck and shovel extraction and 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 — a nearly 35 per cent increase.
The growth over the last decade put incredible pressure on the region's transportation, housing, social services, and municipal services such as sewer and water. Fort McMurray lacked the land required to keep pace with residential developments, a problem the Government of Alberta helped to remedy in 2012 with the release of crown land for development. Fort McMurray is currently made up of 13 neighbourhoods: Abasand Heights, Beacon Hill, Gregoire Park, the Lower Townsite, Parsons Creek, Thickwood Heights, Dickinsfield, Timberlea, Wood Buffalo, Stonecreek, Prairie Creek, Grayling Terrace and Waterways. In addition to Fort McMurray, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo 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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