By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor
When I first moved to Valemount in 2010, there was a long-standing debate about what we were—were we a forestry town or a tourist town? It was a debate that was never resolved since most were certain forestry was dead and that tourism could only support minimum wage jobs. So it seemed we could be neither, and yet oddly, we continued to be both to some degree. At the time, many former Valemount mill workers were still waiting for their severance pay-outs, and the mill itself that once presided in Cedarside, had been cut to pieces years before. Those gravy years of high union wages were over, and what did we have to fill the gap?
It’s taken many years for Valemount’s tourism industry to blossom, and the same can be said of Valemount’s forestry industry. With a new year-round mill about to open a stone’s throw from another small mill, Cedar Valley Specialty cuts, more and more logs are staying in the valley.
If there’s one thing that’s obvious from the past decade it’s that a community does not need to define itself by one thing.
Each community is a unique manifestation of its history and people. Shoehorning its identity into one box or another is good only for those who crave certainty and simplicity.
But the question of forestry vs. tourism may have had an unintended effect of focusing our attention on those two goals. A form of visioning. Because those identities have rooted deeply. And if there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s never good to put all your eggs in one basket.