The newest park in one of Winnipeg's oldest settled areas is now officially open.

The ribbon-cutting for Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park was held Friday morning at the site on Main Street, across from Union Station.

Site footprint

An artist's rendering of the park site's footprint. (upperfortgarry.com)

"Through the hard work of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, downtown Winnipeg is now home to a beautiful park that celebrates the birth of our city and our province," Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Tom Nevakshonoff stated in a news release.

Friends of Upper Fort Garry, the non-profit group behind the park's creation, worked since 2006 to preserve the site — which has been used over the years as a bus depot, soccer field, and gas station — from more development.

The province invested $4.175 million towards land acquisition, site preparation and other expenses to help secure the area as a provincial heritage park.

The construction fences that surrounded the park site for the past two years came down last week. Visitors have been allowed to walk through since then, but Friday was the formal ceremony with dignitaries.

A mobile app was also launched to enable visitors to learn more about the park in an interactive way.

"Using the app, visitors can see what the fort previously looked like while walking along the current-day interpretation," said Jimm Simon, executive director of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry. 

"The app gives us a virtual glimpse into history."

Birthplace of Winnipeg

Known as the birthplace of Winnipeg, Upper Fort Garry was built between 1834 and 1837.

fortgarry2

Upper Fort Garry, circa 1840. (Friends of Upper Fort Garry)

It was the administrative centre of Rupertsland, a massive mercantile empire that stretched from east of Hudson Bay to the Arctic Ocean to Alaska to the Pacific coast as far south as Oregon.

In 1869, Rupertsland was transferred to the Canadian government. It was inside the fort's walls where, during the winter of 1869-1870, a 25-year-old Louis Riel formed a provisional government and presented Canada with a bill of rights that became the Manitoba Act, 1870.

The fort was demolished in the 1880s. Since then, only the gate remained of the once imposing stone structure.

Simon said visitors can expect to see much more on the site in the coming months.

"This is just the beginning. There's a huge interpretive installation going in this fall. that's going to be a big wall with multimedia expanse of lights and sound on there to entertain and inform people," he said.

As well, an interpretive centre and meeting area will eventually be built.

The app can be downloaded free from Google Play or the App Store.