Jan 132014
 
Lynnview Ridge sign

Built in the early 1980s, incredibly atop land that was once a dirty old oil refinery, the former community of Lynnview Ridge was demolished some ten years ago out of fears of soil contamination within the area. The big question on everyone’s mind is why would they build on what is a clearly polluted land in the first place? Your guess is as good as any! Leveled only two decades after being built, the neighbourhood is now empty fenced-in fields. Where hundreds of people once lived, now there is pretty much nothing.

Located on Calgary’s east side, Lynnview Ridge sits on a high escarpment overlooking the Bow River and a busy highway to the west, and the huge CPR Ogden shop complex (parts of which were being demolished as we wrote this) to the east. To the north and lower down by the river is another open field that was also part of the refinery – there was never any housing built on this section of land and today it’s an empty green space called Old Refinery Park. To the south are the communities of Millican Estates, Lynnwood and Ogden.

From the mid 1920s to the mid 1970s, an Imperial Oil Company refinery once stood at the site seen here. Actually the Lynnview Ridge section was part of that complex’s tank farm and the actual refining took place lower down by the river. Photos from when the plant was in operation show perhaps a half dozen HUGE tanks roughly where the main road into the community is today (Lynnview Rd. SE).

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Scroll down for photos and to comment ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

In the fifty years that the plant operated, especially in the early days when rules regarding the environment were pretty lax, surely a lot of chemicals were spilled or leaked out of the tanks and pipes, polluting the site. When the complex was demolished who in their right mind would think that building houses here was a good idea. They MUST have known it was contaminated.

Anyway…they built.

The community dates from the early 1980s during one of Calgary’s boom periods, a time when houses were being built at an incredible rate. Any home, no matter where it was located would be snapped up quickly by eager buyers. It’s probably due to this the demand and the huge profits that were being made by developers, which allowed houses to be placed here in the first place. Some have said the city looked the other way, knowing the sites dirty secret but desperate for more housing for it populace. Others suggest that the developers, who also knew very well what was in the ground, greased some palms (grease, get it) and paid hush money. Who knows the motives, although we can say with certainty that greed was one of them.

One question that begs to be asked – what about the people who moved to the community? Were they told of its ugly past and if so did they also look the other way? Quite likely given the housing shortages at the time. It was a crazy market where any house would sell, even those in Lynnview Ridge as it turned out. Or did the development company lie or at least downplay the dangers? I can’t help think both scenarios were played out and money and frenzied demand conspired to create an atmosphere of lies and denial on both sides. If you build them, they will come, apparently even if the house sits on top on the land that was once a polluted refinery.

The houses that once stood here were for the most part low income properties. There were anywhere from 150 to perhaps 200 separate residences depending on the source. Given that, this could mean at least a few hundred people (or more) were displaced when the neighbourhood levelled.

When the refinery was built in the 20s, the location was at that time far from the city, with only the tiny community of Ogden being nearby. The complex was just west of the CPR mainline and the CNR even had tracks that actually bisected the refinery and both railways appeared to have spur lines into it. Also, a street car line, travelling between Calgary and Ogden. passed in front of the refinery and presumably many workers arrived this way.

The nearby Bow River provided water for the plant.

The Glenbow Archives have a number of photos showing the refinery under construction and in operation during its early years. It’s fascinating stuff!

The exact reason the plant closed has not been found by this author. Was it changing markets, outdated equipment, spiralling operating costs – who knows? It was shut down in 1975 and demolished soon after. Today busy Deerfoot Trail bisects the northern part of the old refinery site.

Lynnview Ridge was quickly built after the refinery was demolished and was full of houses by 1980. It’s not known if a rudimentary clean up was done prior to any of these dwellings being built but based upon what this author has researched so far, I would say nothing was done.

As early as the mid 1980s residents reported seeing evidence of contamination in the soil (an oily film) but it appears that no actions were taken at that time. I guess those living here would just have to put up with it. Given that, a backyard garden was probably a bad idea.

The years passed and nothing was done. That was until 2001 when the axe fell and without any real warning, everyone was asked to leave due to toxic stuff “recently” found in the soil (yeah, recently). Eventually, and some fought this for a while, everyone was bought out, and given what most would say is fair market value for their homes (and some would say not). These dwellings were then quickly demolished, around 2002-2003. Afterwards the layer of contaminated soil, full of lead and hydrocarbons, was removed and replaced with clean fill. Or so they say.

Finally, the streets were blocked off to traffic and housing areas were fenced off completely.

The road into the community is still there, as are street and bus stop signs. Light standards were left in place too and oddly were lit, and trees line the roads. Off to the south, houses bordering the Lynnview Ridge community are still lived in. A line was drawn and on one side there are dwellings and the other fenced in fields that outside of trees and grasses, are for the most part empty. It’s a strange ghost neighbourhood.

Walking the road one can almost imagine the din of a vibrant neighbourhood. It’s a lovely fall day and cars would pass on the road, children would play in the yard, dogs would bark and for a moment the community was alive again. But it’s only imagination and soon one realizes the only noise is that of the wind in the trees and from traffic on nearby roads.

This is by no means a full history on the refinery and Lynnview Ridge, the whole story is just too complex. There are also large gaping holes in its history, maybe hidden because of its dirty past?

It’s not clear what’s in store for the now empty neighbourhood…or almost empty and a few houses still exist on it’s extreme western edge. Will it become park land as suggested? There is some talk of a golf course or even housing returning to the area. Hmmm.

So far clean up expenses have been the neighbourhood of 20 million dollars give or take a few mil’, a cost shared by both Imperial Oil and the city.

We’ve included a Google Maps image showing the neighbourhood and its surroundings. In the centre are the empty streets and fields that was once the community. To the north is the CNR tracks mentioned and right above it, the Old Refinery Park, a green space. The winding highway crossing the river is the busy and noisy Deerfoot Trail. To the east is the CPR’s mainline and its Ogden Shops complex, and to the west, Beaver Dam Flats Park and the Bow River. Finally, to the south are the neighbourhoods of Millican Estates and Lynnwood. Note that a few houses remain in Lynnview Ridge on its western edge.

Map image courtesy of Google.

Not far from Lynnview Ridge is the CPR’s Bonnybrook railway bridge which failed during the June 2013 floods…
Collapsed Bonnybrook train bridge

If you liked this article, you might want to check these posts out as well…
The (Big Yellow) Enoch Sales house.
Bow City townsite – with ForgottenAlberta.com.
Dorothy Alberta.

If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: October, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.

Lynnview Ridge

The road into Lynnview Ridge, open to pedestrians but not vehicles.

Lynnview Ridge Calgary

It was a beautiful fall day…

Calgary Lynnview Ridge

It’ll be a long wait.

Lynnview Ridge Calgary AB

The fields where the houses once stood were fenced off.

Lynnview Ridge sign

Old street signs that were left behind.

Lynnview Ridge Calgary Alberta

At one time an oil refinery stood on this location.

Exploring Lynnview Ridge

They must have known the site was contaminated before building here.

Empty field Lynnview Ridge

A second empty field where hundreds of people once lived.

Road Lynnview Ridge

The edge of the site, with lived-in homes to the left.

Calgary AB Lynnview Ridge

Looking down the main street (the only street) into the community.

Calgary Alberta Lynnview Ridge

Oddly, the street lights were on.

Lynnview Ridge bus stop

Another bus sign left behind.

Lynnview Ridge Google map

A Google Maps image showing the empty streets in Lynnview Ridge (centre).

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34 Comments on "Lynnview Ridge"

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Gerry Bowers
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Gerry Bowers

Those who bought homes in Lynnview Ridge are not without blame. Find out what used to sit on your property before it became housing. Do your homework people!

Don
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What about the old Inglewwood Refinery that Gulf Oil had for years in Inglewood close to the Bow River, I wonder how well that was cleaned up.

jack nitze
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jack nitze

Myself and my wife and kids briefly lived in Lynnview Ridge in the 80s and no one told us anything about any soil pollution when we bought our home. We moved out after about a year, which in hindsight I guess was a blessing. I hate to think that our boys could have been poisoned.
Jack,

Maria
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Maria

Hi
Thanks for this background. We wanted to buy a house near this area, in Lynwood, but I’ve always been worried b/c of the history, just next door.
I don’t know what to think. Did they clean it properly? Has pollution seeped into Ogden and Lynnwood ?
Thanks, just the same, for researching and telling this important story.

Jim
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I live in lynnwood, I rode my bicycle through this area tonight, still kinda creepy. Thank you for the great write up on the history of this part of the community.
I was at a planning night for the setway “feature SE c-train line” they are planning on building a station on the lower refinery park area. One city developer I was talking with about the area said they have tested the upper soil and it’s now safe for housing. possible high rise condos on the upper area
Thanks again.

Kelly
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Kelly

it would be toxicants, or poisons, or toxic materials, but “toxins” are produced by biological process. For example; botulism toxin is a toxin, arsenic is a poison, and PCBs are toxicants.

Deb Poirier
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Deb Poirier

I lived in Lynnwood Ridge. Our family moved out before the “contaminated” soil became an issue. I don’t know all of the facts or what was found in the soil but I do know that between the time of originally building and discovering “contaminated” soil the standards of what was acceptable were changed. I hope everyone that lived there has moved past this really unfortunate lesson.

PJ
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I grew up in Millican Ogden, lived 2 years in the last building on the ridge that is still standing, played on the ridge for years as a child. Rode my bike in that dirt, fell down in that dirt, I am sure I ate my fair share of that dirt (either wiping out or from garden veggies). Tons of my friends have the same experience. I am genuinely surprised at how many of us are FINE (although I know of at least 2 females with fertility issues, maybe related?)…..that being said though, I am also surprised that many of us have had problems with our children….from people I am either still in touch with, or hearing through the grapevine, there is: epilepsy, autism, SIDS, severe asthma, severe allergies ect. I can’t help but wonder if there is an increased amount in our ‘group’ or if we have kept pace… Read more »
Alison O
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Alison O

It’s funny we were talking about this the other day wondering if they ever built anything there.

Kevin
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Kevin
There are some enaccuracies in your article. My wife is the original owner of one of the remaining ridge homes in Lynnwood. There were a small number of us that remained behind to ensure the area got cleaned. Our efforts continue to be successful and Imperial Oil has spent several hundred million dollars toward repurchase and remediation of the the land. They are working together with the province and the city to create a new park area and enhanced amenities for the use of the entire community. For the remaining homes along the ridge, all the properties were cleaned to strict standards permitting residential use. All owners received written documentation from the province that their properties are clean and fit for residential occupancy. The ridge itself was also cleaned as was the land across the road from the ridge, although these areas are cleaned to a level permitting green space… Read more »
R Gary Monague
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R Gary Monague

I like where your page seems to be leading. You may want to look into the Sprung Greenhouses property a little north of there. Also on an old refinery site. The company moved to the east coast after environmental issues on that site off Ogden rd.
Love your work, keep it up.

Paul von Huene
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Paul von Huene

Part of the refinery site became a site for a greenhouse. The ground was degassing so much that the plants all died. The greenhouse was moved to Newfoundland. It failed there, as well. Check pages 215/216. https://books.google.ca/books?id=YAej_IB2IOYC&pg=PA215&lpg=PA215&dq=sprung+greenhouse+calgary&source=bl&ots=fyCFy-Vahs&sig=0nL1bpkPMQLhXl2HpHLitztPzV4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjt3ZLu38_RAhUpxYMKHY4vAt84ChDoAQg1MAU#v=onepage&q=sprung%20greenhouse%20calgary&f=false

If I recall right, Kenny Rogers was an investor.

Donald Klippert
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Donald Klippert

The City should have never allowed this tract of land to be developed…it’s as much their fault as it is Imperial Oil’s…

Patti Faulkner
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Patti Faulkner

(via Facebook)
Interesting (and sad) article.

Den Sells
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Den Sells

(via Facebook)
I dispute the alleged claim.

I had done work at that refinery for years.
No area of the refinery became residential.
The refuse dumping area was 20-30 ft lower than the top of the land.
The dumping area was not for fluids. Construction materials like concrete,wood were dumped in that area. No way was any refinery ground transferred to the residential area of Lynnwood.

Lynnwood us however filled with lots of Alkaline soil..
We poured Sulfate resistant concrete to protect house foundations.

Allan Wright
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Allan Wright

As to the reason for the refinery closure. Imperial closed down three refineries in western Canada; Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg and in turn expanded Edmonton (Strathcona Refinery)

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