It’s not too late to change course: What’s next for Canmore?

I’ve heard some say that Canmore is already ruined. The wildlife corridors were not being respected when we built wall to wall in our tight valley in the 1990’s.

But, all is not ruined. The Wildlife and residents of Canmore have shown resilience. The Bears, Cougars, Elk and Deer are managing to stay connected. The Canmore resident is empowered by their ability to create change and fight for what they believe in.

In many ways the economic pitfalls of 2008, and the disruption of development initiatives in Canmore, specifically the Three Sisters area, bought some time to both reconsider and reimagine what is possible for Canmore- for the resident, the visitor, and even the wildlife. This time has been a gift and just because there was an seemingly impenetrable momentum of unchecked development in the past does not mean we have to accept it now (not trying to take away from those that were engaged in the earlier days because many were).

Canmore has a large amount of empty homes at any one time. There are more challenges than benefits to having these homes empty but at the time they were embraced by the town as they led to an increased tax base with a slightly reduced impact on the towns resources. Maybe we need to continue to increase the taxes for part time homes but rather than looking back we need to look forward. The truth is that many of the people that have part time homes in Canmore have been here a while and Canmore is their second home. Many of them are my friends and they are a valuable part of the community. But, it is very clear that we do not need any more empty homes. It is OK to accept who you are but also to change course.

Please continue to fight for what you believe in. Please be OK to speak up and know that the world in not black and white. We have to compromise. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Be open to change including changing your perspective.

Here is a letter I wrote to the town. Please consider learning more, write some letters, and share your beliefs.

Dear Mayor Borrowman and Town Councillors,

I am writing to express my concern about Three Sisters Mountain Village’s latest development proposals.

I am a 24 year resident of Canmore. I have a family with two young boys and run a successful sales and marketing business that supports 5 full-time employees in Canmore with well-paying and fulfilling careers. I moved here with barely two nickels to rub together in 1997 to climb and ski in the mountains.

Canmore is one of the finest places to live in Canada, obviously due to the proximity to the mountains but also the community. This community is overwhelmingly concerned with the expansion planned in the Three sisters. The expansion planned risks putting everything at risk that makes Canmore what it is. There have already been a lot of changes to the community and this has already forced many to relocate either due to affordability or simply because Canmore changed to something they no longer loved.

Change is inevitable and we are where we are, we have plenty of issues but a lot of beauty stands.

Canmore is home to many of us and it is an amazing place to visit as a tourist. The majority of local residents benefit from the tourism but I don’t think even those that don’t directly benefit can argue that Canmore isn’t a tourist town first and foremost. I feel we need to plan to accommodate and house these visitors while maintaining the services needed for the current local population.

This means a focus on affordability for locals as well as infrastructure and planning to accommodate an influx of tourists. This does not mean more expensive low-density homes and squeezing wildlife corridors.

The truth is often in the middle. I certainly can’t envision another 10,000 + full time or part-time residents squeezed into Canmore’s downtown, the trailheads, or coexisting within the existing wildlife corridors. I hate to be that guy that can’t handle the change but I just couldn’t be proud to live here if this is the case.

What I envision is to use the desire of the Three Sisters developers to make good on their investment to benefit the existing population, the non-resident visitor and the new resident that moves here to help serve the existing community and seasonal tourists.

What about housing to accommodate another ~3500 FULL time residents and 1000 short term rental units? Make all of these apartments or townhouses and build them to accommodate the “minimal” yet functional needs of both tourist and local families IE: small footprints with ample storage options. Let’s envision a family of 4 living in 700-1000 square feet but then provide them with a garage and/or a 200 square foot heated storage unit to store bikes, skis, boats etc. Build them utilitarian with high-quality materials and energy-efficient designs. All should have EV charging stations. Consider allowing some commercial buildings to allow for businesses that would both help reduce the need to always go downtown but also serve the greater Canmore community. Think co-work space, a discount (tastefully done) grocery store, another natural foods grocer…..

I hope this resonates and that we can find a future for Canmore that we can all believe in. Thank-you for the important work that you do.

Rob–

Published by Rob Owens

Canadian. Father, Husband, Friend. Entrepreneur, IFMGA Mountain Guide. Alpinism, BCT, MTB, Flyfishing. Moments, Choices. Better with Age...

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