Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Centre of Debate

A few weeks back council passed a motion to approve this year's budget temporarily excluding the Crowsnest Centre's grant request excepting an allowance of $25,000. A far cry from the $105,000 grant needed to insure continued operation of the facility. In the ensuing debate I argued the motion was nothing more than a subversive attempt to shut the Crowsnest Centre down, to shut it down without having to make the motion to accomplish that feat in an upfront and honest manner.

At our last regular council meeting administration brought to council the outstanding request of the Centre and some repairs that should be done to the building. My motion to approve the grant request of $105,000 agreed to by the budget committee (all of council) on January 15th was defeated by a 4 to 3 vote. Councilors Ward, Cole, Macleod, and Salus voting against. In favour of the motion was myself, Councilor Mitchell, and Mayor Irwin. As council was informed that the centre was critically short of cash it was painfully obvious there was a plan to force the centre into bankruptcy. After the defeat of that motion I made another that council explore the feasibility of replacing the old part of the centre with a new building to be added to the newer part of the centre. The purpose of the motion was to insure some planning take place for the future provision of municipally important services from that site and further that there is no disruption in the provision of services from that facility. Council passed the motion 5 to 2 Councilor's Ward and Cole voting against. So council does have a vision for the future. All we need now is to handle the present in a fashion that brings us to that vision.

Let's make no mistakes. Shutting the facility down or forcing it into bankruptcy will not bring that collective vision to reality. Council will have another chance, when the milrate is set on Thursday, to do the responsible thing. I believe they will take that opportunity. I don't believe any councilor would vote to send our post secondary institution back to Lethbridge.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

The first question is very easy to answer. The second quite a bit tougher but they could well be intricately joined. Our Heritage Initiative, an umbrella organization comprised of representatives from the Crowsnest Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Crowsnest Pass, the Crowsnest Historical Society, Bellevue Underground Mine, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, the Municipality, Coleman Community Society, and the Bellecrest Association, has been working on initiatives for a decade now to create a future for the Pass by building on our past.

The organization, co-chaired by Fred Bradley and Shar Lazzarotto, has been successful in establishing a heritage route through the Pass complete with route signage. The logo above will identify the route and will also be visible on all highway signage directing traffic in Crowsnest Pass. The program to encourage tourists to"Discover Crowsnest Heritage" is no small accomplishment and will be the envy of many other towns in the province. The organization deserves a pat on the back and could sit back for a bit and revel in this accomplishment but knowing much more has to be done held a workshop Saturday in Historic Downtown Coleman (Parks Canada has designated it a National Heritage Site) to explore ways to capitalize on this project and to determine the steps needed to fulfill our desire in revitalizing Crowsnest Pass through the promotion of our heritage.

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day here and would have been a great day spent in the pursuit of the trout that make their home in the Crowsnest River but I am glad I resisted their call and spent it enjoying the excellent presentations and listening to the innovative ideas and suggestions articulated by participants and presenters alike. Aside from the workshop session the highlights had to be the presentations by Randal Macnair Mayor of Fernie, Ted Stilson of Lethbridge Business Redevelopment Zones, and Daryl Cariou Senior Heritage Planner of Calgary. They amazed everyone, I am sure, with what can be accomplished with vision, committment, and investment. We would do well to aspire to what they have achieved in their respective jurisdictions.

We will not get there by following past practices. We will not get there by repeating past mistakes created by our desire to climb out of recession by accepting any proposal that brought minimal investment dollars into our community. The investment community is looking at Crowsnest Pass. It is time we put in the bylaws, procedures, planning, and protocols to insure those investment dollars are used to rebuild our Pass in manner that showcases our uniqueness.
Main street in Crowsnest Pass's National Historic Site

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Land Use in Crowsnest Pass

Area pictured below is going to be at the epicentre of land use debate in Crowsnest Pass.
Past council was defined by opening the door to development and growth in Crowsnest Pass. Our current council will be defined by how well we prepare for the future of our home and how well we manage and control the growth and development of this beautiful and important corridor through the Rockies. Pass residents, council, and the different local stakeholders have to be very cognizant of the fact many diverse interests have their eye on this last mountain pass through the Rockies in Alberta that is not a national park. It is critical we do things right.

The area pictured has been named the "West Block" by conservation groups. They have determined it is critical for the north south movement of large ungulates and large carnivores. Most Pass residents know it is a significant corridor and important winter range for elk herds. The area is also some of our most desirable developable lands. In an earlier post on Sawback Ridge I talked of how much land would be needed to the accommodate the number of country residential residences that the higher density Sawbuck ridge provided for. One quarter of the flatter open land pictured could have been lost to provide a couple hundred homes. Here, then, is the conundrum. How do we allow for growth yet protect critical wildlife habitat?

Our municipality, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and Community Futures Crowsnest Pass recognized the need to work together in finding answers to that question and commissioned the Miistakis Institute to develop a tool that would assist us in that process. (I am trying to acquire the power point presentation explaining the development of the software to post here) In a nutshell the tool is a compilation of data that is important to development and conservation considerations. It can not be used on a case by case basis as the output is determined by priorities inputted by the operator of the software. It is to be used as a consensus building aid to determine the values the community feels to be important in determining the future of our home.

The municipality has endorsed the creation of an adhoc committee co-chaired by myself and Larry Simpson of the Nature Conservancy to develop, with the help of this mapping tool, a vision or visions for the future development of the Pass. The committee is a very diverse group of individuals. It is comprised of conservationists, environmentalists, land owners, industrialists, and individuals working for affected government agencies. To assist the committee are a number experts in fields relating to development and conservation issues. The committee did meet a number of times last year until logistical problems arose that needed clarifying and correction. With those problems being taken care of our group will be getting back to work in the coming weeks.

The committee's work will be brought to the people of Crowsnest Pass for their consideration and input. This process should enable us to determine a collective vision that will form the basis for a new municipal development plan.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The New Three Rs

Seemingly forever the three Rs were reading, writing, and arithmetic. Well that has certainly changed. We have been using the new three Rs for quite some time now. Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle. Here in Crowsnest Pass we are going to be hearing them much more for the next few years. Alberta Environment has a plan to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills to a limit of 500 kilograms per capita by 2010. Reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling is going to be the major focus of that campaign.

Currently in our area we are sending well over 1000 kilos per capita to our landfill. This number does not just include our personal few bags of garbage per week. It also includes industrial, commercial and rebuilding waste. To achieve this goal is going to require a concerted effort on all of our parts and looking at new ways to reuse materials that take up too much space in the landfill. We are going to have to find ways to deal with the drywall and wood that is currently being taken to land fills from the result of home renovations. Cardboard will in all likelihood be banned from landfills as it can be recycled. Sites will be needed to compost grass clippings, leaves and other organic material generated from our food waste. If you haven't started already reducing your waste you may as well be starting now. The goal to reduce our waste to 500 kilos per capita is a sensible target and should be achievable.

Another problem facing landfills is the litter generated by all those plastic bags we bring home from our retail outlets. When landfill operators start compacting garbage and the big plastic bags break open all those little grocery bags are thrown to the wind. The problem is so severe that in Lethbridge the landfill has to be closed in windy conditions. A simple solution is to start using the bags (as pictured here) the grocery chains are starting to provide for a small fee to bring your groceries home in. I started using them a few weeks ago and they are very convenient. You will never have to worry about a bag ripping and spilling your groceries all over your driveway again. Plus you are helping solve a major problem at our landfill.

Remember, reduce, re-use, and recycle.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Main Street Blairmore

Wish I had a before photo. For those that remember just 3 and half years ago this photo shows how Crowsnest Pass has changed.
This picture was taken Sunday morning Oct. 7, 2007. I went down town hoping to get a picture of a completely empty street (didn't get it) back dropped by the snow covered hills to the east. Three years previous I would of got the picture I wanted almost any day of the week. Crowsnest Pass has grown in the last three years. People have discovered what locals have always known. Crowsnest Pass is a great place to live and play.

Who are these people? Some are entrepreneurs, young and old looking for a better quality of life while hoping to capitalize on the potential of the Pass. Many are retirees here to spend their free time fishing and enjoying our beautiful outdoors. Some are young miners, here to raise their families while working the mines across the border in BC. Others have bought homes just to enjoy on weekends until they can retire here. Then there is the electronic engineer who moved from Calgary with his wife and two young children. He works for a company headquartered in Munich. The software engineers he collaborates with are in Moscow. Most of his work is done from his home online. Every so often he has to head to his corporate offices or even to Russia. From the Pass his commute is only 2.5 hours longer than it was while he lived in Calgary. There is the newest member of our municipal Culture and Recreation Board a professional employed by the University that moved here with her husband and children. Also the professional couple from Medicine Hat that are here all weekends and other holidays with their young children enjoying our ski hill and other amenities. You will see these welcome additions to Crowsnest Pass, not only enjoying our facilities and outdoors, but also volunteering their time in the kind of social activities that define communities. I could mention many others, including the newly married lawyer and engineer that decided Crowsnest Pass was the right place to start their life together, but the point is made.

These young professionals could well be (and should be) the future of Crowsnest Pass. We should be sparing no expense marketing to this demographic currently coping with a stressful lifestyle in the big city. We can offer the quality of life they are searching for.