The South side of Fort McMurray is rich in history dating back to the late 1800s. Initially a trading post, the area continued to grow with access first by river then by rail and eventually a gravel road then a paved road were built. Early development of the oil sands, fish, salt and a supply hub for points north supported the early community. New technology and the growth of the oil sands industry saw further growth with the first neighbourhoods established in the early 1970s.
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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 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 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 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., steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and truck and shovel extraction. 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 rapid growth over the last decade put incredible pressure on the region's transportation, housing, social services, and municipal services such as sewage and water. Fort McMurray lacked the land required to keep pace with residential development; an issue the Government of Alberta helped remedy in 2012 by releasing crown land for development. Fort McMurray is made up of 13 major neighbourhoods: Abasand Heights, Beacon Hill, Gregoire, the Lower Townsite, Parsons Creek, Thickwood Heights, Dickinsfield, Wood Buffalo, Timberlea, Stonecreek, Prairie Creek 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 Nation's 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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