The air cadets are entering their final summer of operation at Penhold, but the facility they have used for the last 48 years is not going anywhere.
The former military base was purchased by Harvard Park Business Centre Ltd. in 1996 and it has operated as a training centre for many organizations since then.
The Department of National Defence announced in 2012 that it would be ending its lease with Harvard Park and spreading the summer training out between Cold Lake, Dundurn, Sask., and Vernon, B.C., citing infrastructure costs.
“They’ve been here for many years, it would have been nice to have them here longer, but everybody has to move on in life and in other directions,” said Harvard Park Training Centre general manager Tracey Henwood. “We hope for the best for the military and if they ever want to come back, we’re still here.”
The Harvard Park Training Centre consists of 15 buildings on more than 90 acres of land.
In 2009, Red Deer County upgraded all water lines and repaved all roads in Harvard Park.
The list of user groups includes the RCMP, Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Girl Guides of Canada and Corrections Canada, among many others.
With the lease with DND ending, there will be a large hole on the calendar, but Henwood said they should be able to fill it.
“We’re going to continue what we do every day. We’re a training facility, nothing is going to change what we do,” he said. “The groups will continue coming, they’ll probably just be training more. It will give them flexibility to come in the summer time instead of coming all the time in the winter, spring and fall.”
The facility opened in 1940 as Manning Depot for the Royal Air Force to train Commonwealth pilots as part of Canada’s contribution to the Second World War.
It has taken on many uses and looks since then.
In 1994, the base was finally decommissioned. The residential portion of the base was renamed Springbrook in 1995 when private developers purchased the land. The military base was sold to Harvard Park in 1996.
In 1999, airport operations were taken over by the Red Deer Airport Authority — a partnership of the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.
Harvard Park has worked hard to maintain the history of the property, staffing it year round.
“We try our best to keep everything the same,” said Henwood.
Preparations for the final summer at the training centre start on June 1.