Editorial – Billions few people want

Jeff Burgar

Well, the people aren’t staying home!

Back in April, news reports were filled with community leaders in places like Sylvan Lake, Jasper and other places in central and southern Alberta pleading for people to stay home.

The argument was, if people came, local medical facilities just couldn’t deal with anybody who got sick from the Wuhan COVID-19 virus. If people arriving fell sick, most times they would go home pronto to their own doctor and medical centre, and if a bunch of people in a community became infected, most times they end up in a hospital someplace best able to look after them.

If no attention, well, Alberta, and the rest of the world, sure would be having a much greater problem than treating some sunburns if hospitals were overwhelmed.

Of course, most of the same leaders admitted if people did decide to come to enjoy a long weekend, or even to open up their cabin, there wasn’t much they could do to stop them. As it turned out, crowds of people, like they do every warm summer, did eventually flock to all sorts of places, including most of the usual suspects in northern Alberta.

The new Shadow Creek resort at Joussard, featuring Alberta’s largest marina, is now running at 85 per cent capacity. Fred Cornellsen, park manager at the long-running Spruce Point Park campground, says they have been “packed” since the beginning of June.

Interior British Columbia was warning Albertans to stay away. Frankly, there are a whole bunch of reasons we don’t like B.C. anymore. Biggies were the ridiculously long lineups at campgrounds and the endless fire bans.

But then along came governments blocking pipelines. They want our money, but won’t let us earn any to spend. That doesn’t work for us. So, we have joined all those vacationing in northern Alberta. Actually, it’s our home so sticking close isn’t very hard at all.

We still have trouble understanding, every year, why our local governments in the Peace Country seem to have such little interest in growing tourism. The eastern part of northern Alberta works hard attracting boaters, campers, anglers, trail riders and hikers, snowmobilers and more from the rest of Alberta.

But, there is a fluffle about deciding if two camping units are more appropriate on a 2.5-acre recreation lot than four. This is happening right now in Big Lakes County, which stretches from the edge of the M.D. of Smoky River at McLennan eastward half the length of Lesser Slave Lake and south past Swan Hills.

Across the Peace, and looked at over a span of 30 years, growth has been impressive. But that rearview mirror vision also raises a question: What would the growth have been like if local governments had actually been seriously behind promoting the sixth largest industry in Alberta – recreational activity? Double? Triple? More?

Recreation opportunities are one of the Five Pillars [others are Education, Health Care, Job Opportunities, Safety] that build and maintain any community. Are we paying attention?

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