Horse Hills
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  Posted February 18th, 2016 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | 7 comments

Edmonton heritage

Source: Edmonton History

Coming up for Living on the Edge
Horse Hills is the land north of the Anthony Henday, west of Manning Drive and east of the North Saskatchewan River. This is the area where I ride my bicycle because I live close by at the North end of the city and there is no big volume of traffic.

Horse Hills is beautiful with golden canola fields everywhere

In this area is also Croatian Soccer Club grounds, where in the summer they host picnics every weekend, and for me just another reason to be close, as I have Croatian blood in my vanes. The Horse Hill area is approximately 3,700 hectares and is bounded by Manning Drive on the west, the North Saskatchewan River on the east and Anthony Henday Drive on the south.

Small greenhouses are everywhere

Very scenic road heads into the hills

In 1891 53 families (ca. 225 to 250 people) who came from Galicia two years ago have reached Edmonton with their belongings and their livestock and have left for their land on theHorse Hill plain. Ca. 25 families are still left at Dunmore. They are expected here soon. The German families who had arrived the previous week divided: Five Catholic families from Hungary will go to homesteads north of St. Albert. 25 families of Reformed Lutherans will homestead on the Horse Hill plain, and about 25 families of Old Lutherans are going to Stony Plain. The Baptists have not yet decided, but a few have already pulled out to the Peace Hills area.

Horse Hills is the land north of the Anthony Henday, west of Manning Drive and east of the river.

Horse Hills is beautiful – golden canola fields, small acreages and green houses, trees arching over the old Fort Road as it winds by the century-old Alberta Hospital in the city’s far northeast. This is some of the last remaining farm land within Edmonton’s boundaries, but massive changes are coming, and likely fast. This is what southwest Edmonton looked like 20 years ago, before the south leg of the Anthony Henday gave those residents easy access to Nisku, Sherwood Park and many other industrial sites in Edmonton. Now the last leg, the northeast leg, is poised to do the same thing here.

Small greenhouses and market gardens sell right off the farm.

Horse Hills resigned to massive change
Residents seem resigned to the fact change is coming, says Lisa Jimmo, president of the Horse Hills Community League, who gave me a tour Monday night. They just want a plan. They want to know when city services will be coming out, where the roads will be going, and how the city will deal with the mishmash of one-off zoning approvals and development that is already here.

This massive Sikh temple sits in the middle of nowhere beside Manning Drive.

The Evergreen trailer park is still there

The Evergreen trailer park sits kitty-corner to Quarry Ridge across the highway.

It’s also home to a series of one-off developments— the Evergreen trailer park kitty -corner to a subdivision of multimillion-dollar acreages in Quarry Ridge, the Alberta Hospital, Henwood Treatment Centre, greenhouses and a children’s ranch. Just outside the boundary, a Sikh temple that sits beside Manning Drive, was built just before the land around it was rezoned industrial.

Dozens of multimillion dollar homes fill the subdivision of  small acreages on Old Fort Rd and 195 Avenue.

The Old Fort Rd subdivision with it’s multi-million dollar homes – it sure doesn’t feel like a very planned community.

Landowners started the process of making an area structure plan this spring, and anyone who lives there can apply to be on the advisory committee. I know change happens, but will be sad to lose so much beauty.

Typical barn in the prairies

Farmers and food activists in Edmonton’s northeast are readying for a final round in their battle to preserve large-scale urban agriculture, a vital part of keeping a locally grown supply of fresh food for the city. Planning started for the Horse Hill area this spring, but those who want to keep food production in the city feel the first moves have already gone against them.

Despite lobbying efforts, the developer — not the city — is leading the planning process. Walton Development, an international company that bought up most of the land in the area, hired Stantec Consulting to start developing an area structure plan this spring.

Edmonton ring road – Antony Henday

For potato farmer Gord Visser, that’s a big disappointment. “We feel really threatened,” he said. “We feel a real conflict of interest is at work. In the City of Calgary, their planning department develops their own area structure plans.” Horse Hill, an area of rolling canola fields and tree-lined highways, is the last large segment of land on Edmonton’s north side without new neighborhoods already on the drawing board.

But few assume it will stay that way long. Once considered a backwater in the countryside, it’s now next door to a 5,000 hectare industrial zone, it’s a 15-minute drive from upgrader alley, and just off the last leg of the Anthony Henday, now expected to be complete by fall 2016.

Edmonton ring road – Antony Henday arrived to Horse Hills

Residents fought a 90,000-head feedlot and the new remand centre originally considered for the area. What makes farmers and food activists so committed to keeping agriculture in the area is the quality of the top soil and a microclimate near the river that gives farmers a long season, an average of 143 frost-free days. City studies have found net profit per acre is $270 in that zone, compared to $36 in Strathcona County and $16 in Parkland County. The grassroots lobby group Greater Edmonton Alliance argues the city needs that ability to grow fresh produce locally, and farmers such as Visser argue building houses and destroying a farming community dedicated to using that land would be a waste. But developing the area with agriculture will require a very different plan than what city council has been approving for other suburbs.

But Visser argues the only way to keep real farming in the area is to reserve a large section of connected fields — preferably several thousand acres near the North Saskatchewan River.

“If it’s fractured like it is now, it’s going to be very difficult to farm,” he said. “To get out of a field, for instance — tractors and traffic don’t work well. Dirt would be coming off of the fields, and residents don’t like to see spraying, especially aerial spraying close to their houses.”

Collectively, members of the Northeast Edmonton Agriculture Producers, farmers who haven’t sold to the developer yet and want to continue farming, own about 1,000 acres of land scattered throughout Horse Hill. Visser says they want to work with the city to arrange land swaps or development credits so Edmonton could keep a contiguous swath of land dedicated for agriculture.

“The best land is along the North Saskatchewan River. We’d be able to build a corridor along there and preserve urban agriculture, just like we’ve saved some of our parks,” he said. “We’d like to work with the City of Edmonton in a non-biased way rather than having that led by Stantec, who is hired by the developers. The developers are interested in developing as much of that land into residential as possible. That’s the business they’re in”. But river valley land is expensive. Acreages backing onto the river for the third phase of Quarry Ridge Estates are going for $660,000 a lot, without a house on the property.

Janet Riopel, Edmonton-based director of community development for Walton, said nothing has been ruled out and the planning process is just beginning. Representatives from all of the stakeholder groups are being invited to a design meeting in September and will continue to be involved through an advisory council. Canadian farmers are aging, and few young people are willing to take over family farms, she said. “Here’s a place that’s really attractive to young farmers. We would hate to lose both the land and the community that care for it.”

Welcome to Horse Hill Berry Farm
We have been busy planting raspberries for 3 years and had our first season open to the public in July 2010. There was a bounty of berries to be picked in the 5 acres that were available. We offer U-Pick Raspberries in northeast Edmonton on the picturesque ravine of the North Saskatchewan River. In the summer of 2012 we will have 8 acres available for picking. There are also Saskatoon berries close by at Riverbend Gardens.

Old barn in the Horse Hills

Horse Hill School
Horse Hill is a small school in a big country setting. The school is located in the North East corner of the city, just off of the Manning Freeway. It is hard to believe that such a beautiful country setting can be so close.

Horse Hill Elementary and Junior High School

Horse Hill School with playground

The saying “great things come in small packages” was made for us. The school philosophy is rooted in respect, and the belief that schools exist to challenge all students to meet the highest academic standards. Small things – how they treat each other, how responsible they are, how everyone strives for academic excellence – make a difference. Everyone at Horse Hill can be and is a learner, and they make the journey together each day.

Edmonton Croatia Soccer Club
The Croatian soccer grounds are also located in the Horse Hill area. To get to the club, follow Fort Road north and it will connect to (become) the Manning Freeway. Travel north along the Manning Freeway and you will pass several blue signs indicating the route to the Edmonton Croatia Soccer Club. Continue travelling north along the Manning Freeway, until you pass a large Temple and then the Maximum Security Prison on your left side. As soon as you pass Maximum Security, take your next (first) right, go through the “T” intersection about 1/4 of a mile and the facility will be on your left side.

The Club’s grounds consist of 10 acres of developed land. The grounds include a gazebo with a kitchen and eating area, 4 first class soccer fields, changing rooms with showers, as well as courts for other sports (badminton, volleyball and lawn bowling).

Croatian Soccer grounds with gazebo

The grounds are open from spring to fall. In addition to the soccer games and tournaments that take place at the grounds, the grounds have been rented out for other functions, including weddings, bridal showers, bachelor parties, gift openings, christening parties, picnics and barbecues, and other social events. The grounds have been a rest point for the participants of the Alberta lung Association’s bike race.

The grand opening of the fields coincided with the Club’s 20th anniversary and took place the long weekend in July 1989. The annual Croatian Soccer Tournament was the first tournament to be played at the fields.

Horse Hills community hall is not in a good shape

Horse Hill Community
Coming up for Living on the Edge: Developers face new density targets for the suburbs. They are lobbying to shrink minimum lot widths to 7.5 metres, and experimenting with row houses and more condos. Is Edmonton dense enough? Will we break our love affair with the single-family home? An Area Structure Plan (ASP) is being created for lands in northeast Edmonton, with the benefit of considerable input from a very diverse group of stakeholders. When complete, the ASP will provide a framework for the development of this area, known as Horse Hill.

The name Horse Hill comes from the area’s historical association with Fort Edmonton. It was previously used as the home of Fort Edmonton’s horse guard (Blue 1924). During this time, as many as 800 horses were kept here, playing an important role in the maintenance and protection of Fort Edmonton. Area names are largely based on this historical use.

The Fort road by the Alberta Hospital

In 1982, these lands were annexed into the boundaries of the City of Edmonton to accommodate future urban growth. These are the only remaining lands in north Edmonton that do not have a plan in place to guide future development. There is a growing demand for new communities in this area due to its proximity to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland and to the new Edmonton Energy and Technology Park (an area previously called the Horsehills ASP). The City has invested considerable resources to ensure a stronger and more sustainable tax base that will attract new companies to this comprehensive business and industrial park, located immediately to the west of this ASP area.

Surrounding municipalities are actively planning to ensure that they will capture some of the growing demand for neighbourhoods, and Edmonton must also plan and position itself to meet and accommodate this growth. Having plans in place ahead of time is key to ensuring communities are balanced and can fulfill future needs. This website,, is designed to serve as a central source of information and resources related to the Horse Hill ASP.

Alberta Hospital Edmonton is a psychiatric hospital operating under the governance of Alberta Health Services. It is located in the northeastern portion of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and was founded on 1 July 1923. Admission and continuing treatment at Alberta Hospital Edmonton can be voluntary, formal under the Mental Health Act, or in the Forensic Psychiatry Program under the Criminal Code of Canada. Referral agents include physicians, mental health professionals, other health care facilities, community agencies, courts, corrections, police, and family, in addition to self-referral.

Each Alberta Hospital Edmonton program has an inpatient and a community component. Interdisciplinary teams are made up of program managers, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychometrists, nurses, psychiatric aides, social workers, occupational therapists, recreation therapists, physiotherapists, therapy assistants, counselors, pharmacists, dieticians, chaplains and support staff.


The Road Taken by Alberta Hospital Edmonton
by Lawrence Herzog

When I was a boy, my father used to take me fishing at the confluence of the Sturgeon and North Saskatchewan Rivers and I knew we were in the country when I could see the water tower for a place he called “Oliver.” As we headed north out of Edmonton on Highway 15, we used to come to an oasis of manicured lawns, big trees and old buildings and Dad told me this was where mental patients were treated.


What I didn’t know was the history of the facility, which began life on Dominion Day (now called Canada Day) in 1923 as the Institute for the Feeble Minded. Reading through media accounts and government records of the day sheds light on just how different mentally ill people were regarded and treated.

Alberta’s first institution for the care of the mentally ill opened in Ponoka in 1911 and grew quickly. The Liberal government of the day purchased land near the settlement of Oliver, named for Frank Oliver, the founder of Edmonton’s first newspaper and later politician. The site was 20 kilometers from Edmonton and reached by a dusty road that was to become Highway 15 between the big city and the town of Fort Saskatchewan. The proximity to Edmonton, a rail line and road connections and its excellent agricultural potential were cited as factors in its favor.

Initially, the hospital was envisioned by the department of education as a place to keep mentally incapacitated children. But part way through the planning stage, it was turned over to the Department of Public Health, which carried on planning it as “the Home and Training School for Mental Defectives.”

Then in the spring of 1923, with crowding becoming a deeper problem at the Hospital for the Insane in Ponoka, it was decided to make the facility a mental hospital for adults. It was to become a home for, in the parlance of the time, the chronically insane. Its first patients were 47 First World War veterans, transferred from the Hospital for Returned Soldiers in Red Deer.

While the original facility contained several buildings, today just Building No. 1 survives. This three-storey brick and stucco structure ranks as one of the few remaining buildings of its type in the province. Its cruciform 2,200 square meter layout with crenellated roof line, front bay windows and arched oak vestibule with terrazzo flooring shows influences of the English Jacobethan Revival Style. The style is characterized by its multi-paned windows, shaped parapet, hipped roof and bay windows.

Early on, the basement contained a dining room and school room, there was a day room on the main floor, dormitory rooms and the main and second floors and staff bedrooms in the attic. There were 15 staff in those days, overseen by Dr. David Dick, the facility’s medical superintendent.

In her history of the institution, writer Sheila Abercrombie notes that Dick was a military doctor who had served in the First World War and had headed two military hospitals. Dicks organization and operation of the institute was exceedingly military in style, with a strict hierarchy of authority, rigid rules and routines, tight schedules, and a Spartan environment.

Kuhlmanns Market – Gardens & Greenhouse

Kuhlmanns Market – Gardens & Greenhouse

Starting in those early years of operations, patients raised much of their food through farm work. In fact, gardening was considered as the best therapy — a belief that many relaxed gardeners of healthy mind will also attest. Patients growing their own food was phased out in 1962.

In 1971, patient dormitory spaces were eliminated and the original building converted to occupational therapy rooms. Ten years later, a major restoration was launched and the second floor became classrooms and offices for the Highwood School. By the late 1980s, the hospital was the largest psychiatric centre in the province, maintaining 650 active treatment beds for the mentally ill. Now known as Alberta Hospital Edmonton, the facility at 17480 Fort Road has grown to 45 buildings spread over 275 acres. There have been other changes, too. In 1923 the cost per patient was calculated at 86 cents per day. Now it tops $300 a day. Mind you, back in the 1920s, there was no such thing as active treatment.

Evergreen Memorial Gardens

Evergreen Memorial Gardens

Before the days of tranquillizers, staff really didn’t work much at helping patients to heal. The hospital was a custodial facility, where well-sedated “incurable” mental patients spent their lives doing farm chores. The science of caring for the mentally ill has come a long way. The trees and the finely manicured lawns, tended by gardener Alex Paton more than 75 years ago, have also matured well. But the opening of the Manning Freeway has left Alberta Hospital Edmonton once again off the beaten path.

I miss rounding that corner and seeing the lawns and big old trees shading the potpourri of buildings. But the history and the memories, increasingly as elusive as the fish my father and I were angling to catch, are still there to be found.

Information for this article sourced with the generous assistance of the staff at the City of Edmonton Archives.

Just a barn in Horse Hills

Have a good and healthy season.

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7 comments to “Horse Hills”

  1. Comment by Iva Horvat:

    Wonderful website you have here, but I was curious about if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other experienced people that share the same interest. I am also Croatian who lives in Edmonton and like to read your blogs about Edmonton… If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Cheers!

  2. Comment by Amanda-Lynn:

    So happy that you were able to see the beauty that we live out here in the NE. I would like to correct you though on the photos that you have of Quarry Ridge, those are actualy small acreages off Old Fort Rd and 195 Avenue, approx 35-40 blocks north of Quarry Ridge. Quarry Ridge is a beautiful community, located southeast of Evergreen Trailer Park
    Anyways, thanks for catching the beauty with some great photos- This is an area that is rich in history!

  3. Comment by NEEA:

    Thank you for publishing such a wonderful view of our landscape we live in. Our membership is comprised of well over 200 landowners whom are not Developers. Although you have done some great history work on the area for which are greatful, Amanda did bring to the attention of Quarry Ridge mistake.
    Our membership would like to bring to your readers attention information Mr.Visser never informed you of;

    1) Reason they are feeling threatened? The land was disposed to the developer by the farmer at well above agricultural prices. This is why the developer purchased it, no one else could afford the price they were marketing it for, not even another farmer.

    2) Comments on the way the City plans, the city had completed two previous studies focused on an agricultural zone but decided the costs were too great for the taxpayers of Edmonton to burden, it was decided under the present ownership as majority of it was owned by the farming community to preserve as ag, until it was required for urban developement. As we know it today, majority of this land is now in the hands of the developer and private non farming community. The farmers own less than 700 acres and not a thousand as he stated!

    3) Microclimate days? Really? we have never and will never get scientific proof of this as it does not exist. I know the claims have been made many times and it has become an urban myth at the hands of a retired farmer who claimed it in the same city studies I made you aware of above. Problem is they could not substantiate it as well. There are many soil maps available that proves this land is consistant with soils almost to Calgary and Cold Lake to the north.

    4) Price per acre net profits are definately misconscrued. We all can figure out some math so we will demonstate something is misaligned.
    Farmers who are in our membership supplied some figures for us. We know NEAP owns less than 700 acres but Mr. Visser claims 1000. We will go with his. If all 1000 acres is in vegetable and high production value and nets $270.00/acre, the other 8000 acres they do not farm nets a figure our grain farmers supplied of $70.00/acre we should have an average. That works out to $92.22/acre net profit average for the NE zone and not the $270.00/acre you were quoted.

    5) Saving large tracks of contiguous land and spaying with air planes. Whose land? This is the most uncontrolled method of application of pesticides onto crops we could imagine. Second this practice eliminates any claim of ORGANICS for NE Edmonton. The Area Structure Plan (ASP) in front of City Council in the fall of 2012 demonstrates in green, lands the owners wish to keep in agriculture. The areas that are not green is owned by others,(private and developers) who wish to have their properties represented by the ASP draft. For them to want this vision, they are speaking on behalf of others property rights and without their authority to do so.

    6) NEAP is correct they have not sold to the developers yet? Are they planning to sell more to them? Although they still own some land, they are one of their member has as recently as Feb/2012, sold land for a sizeable price instead of mainting ownership and protection of ag production or ag values for another farmer to purchase. This comment is only after the fact many of them have already sold out or some of their land.

    7) The issue of swapping land with the city so this area could be protected? Who are they to suggest our members should leave? Again we have never made this suggestion about the farmers! Their entitlement to suggest swaps and the such carries a hefty price tag to the residents of Edmonton as well. They even give prices of $660.000.00 per lot in Quarry Ridge. Each of those lots are 1/2 or 1/4 acres in size. At a minimum there would be at least 2 houses @ $1,320,000/acre. Is this what the City of Edmonton is going to pay for ag land when they could move just outside the city and purchase ag land for $7000.00/acre? Who should be swapping land?

    In closing, NEEA is not against protection of ag land, we are of course not going to support speaking on behalf of land we do not represent through ownership. We want to be involved in some great ideas and locations for all citizens to be able to access fresh vegetables and local agri business. We are realists who wish to have access to same conveniences as those who live in urban Edmonton. We have had no direction or services for the past 31 years and now is the time. We will no longer allow others to speak on our behalf. As for the food activists, they have been given ample opportunity to involve themselves in the community. They continue to hold private meetings and information sessions with no notice to the residents of this area. We will no longer hold back information exposing the rediculous publicity stunts they decide to expose our residents to within our community. The potatoe giveaway which limited our residents to long multi hour delays to return home or even to leave our residences. The public and our residents were put at risk should there had been an emergency. Residents complained of the urination on lawns trees and some of them would really appreciate the missing lawn ornaments back. Thank you GEA and NEAP (our neighbor farmers).

    Please visit us at
    Facebook: NEEAandFriends
    Twitter: NEEAandFriends

  4. Comment by Zdenko:

    Thank you for your comments. I corrected the error…

  5. Comment by Adalina:

    thank you for posting such a useful blog. your weblog happens to be not just informative but also very stimulating too.

  6. Comment by Stacy McAllister:

    Beautiful countryside!! The pictures say it all.The description that you have provided is worthwhile and interesting.

  7. Comment by Eliza Washburn:

    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. You Canadians are amazing… I always wonder how can someone live so far north… but, Edmonton as a city seems to be nice.
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