By Laura Keil

Have you found it a little odd that Valemount’s population has semi-permanently increased by a third due to the Ledcor-Sicim worker accommodation camp and yet we’ve only learned one or two names of these new residents?

It feels like we are two separate communities. And we are, despite sharing a grocery store.

Mingling is difficult, to be sure, given the workers’ long hours. But I’m not the first to notice it seems like a crying shame there’s not more integration between the camp and the community.
The perks
Why bother? some might ask. They are only here for the work and in a couple years they will leave. Besides, they probably don’t care about our small town.

Here’s the irony – a lot of these workers believe the community doesn’t want them. So as a community, I’d say it’s up to us to ask for the first dance.

The perks should be fairly obvious. Fresh blood and ideas into our community. A diverse set of skills (and interests) not used in their day job. While work may be their priority while here, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for ways to use these other skills in ways that can contribute locally. We should be open to those possibilities and encourage involvement.

Obvious limitations – and opportunities
The camp is a dry camp and though many would probably love a couple beers at a local joint, there is no taxi service to take them back home. Many social (and ideological) bridges are crossed at the brewery, and it’s usually a great community mash-up, but if you can’t get home after your beers, you’re kind of hooped.

Business opportunities
While a taxi or shuttle company may not be the easiest gig to get going, it would certainly help with the literal gap between downtown and the camp. There are two companies that used to provide shuttle/taxi services and I wonder if one of them would consider re-starting. There is also the Community Bus run by a local non-profit. Perhaps the money raised could go to something awesome.

What’s in it for them?
Why would a worker care to get involved or make local friends? I think it comes down to a human need to connect to the place we’re in. It also enriches our experience of life. On the surface, it may appear as though there’s not much to do in Valemount. Those of us working multiple jobs and volunteer positions, know this simply isn’t true, even if we’ll admit that, no, we don’t have a VR parlour or bowling alley.

Simply put, connecting locally helps lift the tedium.

Best outcome
The best outcome of all would be to entice some of these workers to remain here after the pipeline work is done. While this may seem far-fetched (where would they work?), it’s probably not. Some of these workers may be close to retirement. Some may be looking for a career change (small business anyone?), and in the age of better online business and educational offerings, they may find a small rural community just the right fit for them and their family.

After all, in the best case scenario, they’ve just spent the last three years connecting with the community. And they like it.