The City of St. Albert, now with 58,000 residents (2006), is Alberta's oldest non-fortified community. It was established in 1861, and named for Father Albert Lacombe, one of the earliest missionaries in the West. These lands were originally settled as a French Catholic community. This city is renowned for its French heritage and its "public" schools are Catholic, while the "separate" schools are Protestant.
The Sturgeon River Valley shapes the urban landscape of St. Albert. This slow moving and shallow river created gentle rolling hills that are a contrast to the flat prairie surroundings. The river-lot system, styled after rural Quebec townships, defines the majority of land parcel sizes and shapes along both sides of the Sturgeon River. Streams, ravines and drainage channels leading to the river continue to be preserved in their natural state as much as possible.
This city is accessed by following St. Albert Trail (Highway 2) northwest out of Edmonton for 8 km. Originally separated from Edmonton by miles of farmland, over the 1980s Edmonton's city limits expanded right up to St. Albert's south and east borders.
St. Albert is an anomaly in that the Catholic school district is the public system, and the Protestant school district is separate. In all other areas of Alberta this is reversed, the public system is either Protestant or non-religious. The community is served by the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools (Public) with 17 schools and approximately 7600 students, and the St. Albert Protestant Schools (Separate) which has over 6300 students. St. Albert is also home to the North Central Francophone School Board.
Athabasca University has its Centre for Innovative Management in St. Albert, and the St. Albert Public Library (SAPL) is located in St. Albert Place in the heart of downtown.
St Albert is a self-sufficient community, with extensive shopping offered in its central business district along St Albert Road, as well as a number of malls and big box stores and St Albert Trail, toward Edmonton.
The Outdoor Farmers' Market, held in downtown St. Albert, is Western Canada's largest outdoor farmer's market, attracting over 10,000 people every Saturday from July to September.
St. Albert Place (designed by world-renowned Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal), in the heart of downtown, is the focal point for many community events and activities. It houses the St. Albert Public Library, Musée Heritage Museum, Visual Arts Studio and
The community is host to the Northern Alberta International Children's Festival (attracting over 40,000 participants over 5 days) , the Kinsmen Rainmaker Rodeo, the Rock'n August, and the St. Albert Rotary Music Festival.
The Servus Credit Union Place multi-purpose leisure centre opened in 2006, and has a recreational aquatic centre, kid's play area, 2 hockey rinks, a 2000-seat performance rink, two soccer fields, 3 basketball courts, an exercise room, a running track and more. The Fountain Park pool has swimming, tennis courts, racketball courts and a child play area. The Red Willow park trail system winds its way all through St. Albert, providing miles of recreational pathways.
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