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Portage la Prairie

[pawr-tij luh prair-ee, pohr-]

Portage la Prairie (pronounced in English) is a city in the Western Canadian province of Manitoba. As of 2006, the population was 12,728. The area of the city was .

Portage la Prairie is located approximately 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Winnipeg. It sits on the Assiniboine River, which flooded the town persistently until a ditch north to Lake Manitoba (the Assiniboine River Floodway) was built to divert the flood waters.

The name is derived from the French word portage, which means to carry a canoe overland between waterways. In this case the "portage" was between the Assiniboine River and Lake Manitoba, over la prairie.

Military

Portage la Prairie has a civilian/military airbase south of the community known as Southport. It was established as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during World War II and trained thousands of pilots for military service from around the world.

Southport remains a training base for Canadian Forces pilots, but today the base is the home to the Canada Wings Aviation Training Centre. A consortium of civilian contractors collectively known as Allied Wings work hand in hand with Canadian Forces military personnel providing state-of-the-art computer-based, instructor-led, simulator and flight training to ab-initio (primary) pilot candidates, as well as to advanced multi-engine and helicopter pilot candidates.

Economy

The local economy is largely dependent on agriculture and supporting industries. Portage la Prairie is also home to the McCain Foods and Simplot potato processing plants, which provide french fries for McDonalds, Wendy's, and various other commercialized restaurant chains. Can-Oat milling, one of the largest oat mills in the world, is also located in the municipality. The city has developed into a regional retail service center as large big box style stores have been recently locating on the fringes of the city. Many small towns and Indian reserves use this as their primary shopping destination. Portage la Prairie is a farming city, with around 120 to 125 frost free days, and a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone of 3a. Agriculture is the city's main industry.

Interesting Facts

Portage la Prairie has the most sunny days in warm months in Canada.

Portage la Prairie hosts a Potato Festival each summer. It is the world strawberry capital{fact} and North American potato processing capital{fact}. Many U-pick strawberry and Saskatoon farms are within 15 minute drive by car.

It is also the home of former Prime Minister of Canada, Arthur Meighen, who was a lawyer in Portage la Prairie during his residence. A school and an avenue are named in his honour.

The city became a major transportation centre due to its proximity to the river and later, the location of the main lines of the country's national railways passing through the community, all within a few hundred meters of each other. This has made Portage la Prairie one of the most ideal places for railway aficionados to view trains.

The city has an aggressive tree planting program and is known for its mature urban forest. A collection of some of the largest cottonwood trees in Canada line the west end of the main street known as Saskatchewan Avenue, and, along with many other varieties, are present throughout the city.

Portage la Prairie is also home to the world's largest Coca-Cola can. It was constructed from an old water tower and is now located beside the local Canadian Tire.

Parks

In central Portage la Prairie, there is a peninsula known as Island Park, bounded by an oxbow lake called Crescent Lake. Every winter, the "island" has a festival of lights consisting of Christmas lights decorating a driving path around the perimeter. In addition, a highly popular winter lights parade is held. The island has an 18 hole golf course, Portage Industrial Exhibition grounds which hosts various agricultural competitions and midway, an outdoor water park, a one-half mile horse racing track with accompanying grandstand, a large pen enclosure for deer, a birdcage area featuring peacocks, playgrounds, walking trails, tennis courts, a duck pond, various monuments, and an extensive arboretum. As well, Crescent Lake is home to flocks of migrating and nesting Canada Geese. Also not far southwest lies Spruce Woods Provincial Park and not far north lies St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park

City Issues

Problems that plague the city include auto theft and vandalism. Various programs have been created to deal with these issues with limited success.

The city is also faced with a significant housing problem. Many homes are in poor condition resulting in a negative net effect on the neighbourhoods that they are located in. As well, in-effective by-laws and their enforecement policies have in part, allowed the continuation of activities in residential neighbourhoods that further contribute to negative quality of life factors and property de-valuation. Such issues include derelict or unkempt properties, noise and activities that are inappropriate to residential areas (autobody work, excessive amplification of music, noise disturbances by animals or people etc.), absentee landlords or slum lords. The by-law enforcement system works on a complaint base system which city officials claim is successful but which is anecdotally regarded as a failure by the affected populations. This is evidenced by recurring and on-going un-resolved problems. Housing projects, both government and private in various areas have led to significant devaluation of property in areas they are located in. As well these areas have become recognizable due to the social problems and criminal activities which radiate from them to the rest of the community.

In contrast, various new residential developments and an upsurge in renovating older homes is contributing to the improvement of housing stock in the community. All of these new housing developments are occurring on the south side of the town, on or near Crescent Lake and Garrioch Creek.

Attractions

Currently the city has embarked on the building of a multi use recreation center. Included are state of the art arenas, water park and swimming pool along with other amenities.

City Hall

Portage la Prairie's city hall is a limestone structure that was designed by Thomas Fuller, who also designed the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. It was opened in 1898 and declared a historical site in 1986.

Fort La Reine Museum and Pioneer Village

Fort La Reine depicts life in the 1800s complete with a blacksmith shop, trading post, country church, schoolhouse, and several restored homes. The original fort was built in 1738 by the French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes and served as his headquarters for 15 years. The museum is also home to a railway caboose and the 1882 official rail car of William Van Horne, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Manitoba Museum of the Titanic

The Manitoba Museum of the Titanic was the only museum dedicated to the RMS Titanic and had one of the largest exhibits of Titanic artifacts. More than 150 items from Titanic survivors and victims included pre-voyage promotional items and a deckchair, which were on display for visitors to observe. It was located at the Portage la Prairie mall. It is now closed.

Portage Arts Centre & Gallery

The Portage Arts Centre & Gallery has monthly exhibits, gift gallery, art classes, and art rental program. In the past, it has also hosted small concerts, including Scott Carman and Graham Tabor.

Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame/Museum

The Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame/Museum is dedicated to the history of softball in Manitoba. It has memorabilia from 1930s to the present. Inductees to the Hall of Fame are showcased.

Sports

Portage la Prairie is home to the Portage Terriers ice hockey team, who play in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and the Central Plains Capitals ice hockey team, who play in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League Both teams play in the Portage Centennial Arena. Portage la Prairie is the home of NHL player Arron Asham. The Portage Terriers were also the junior home of J.P. Vigier, who plays for the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL. The Terriers also played host to Junior Lessard, who was named Canadian Junior 'A' Hockey Player of the Year while he played in Portage. He was the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented to the best player in NCAA hockey. He currently plays in the farm system of the NHL's Dallas Stars.

Notable natives

See also

References

External links

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