Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds — Part 2

John Devitt

To read part one of this story visit this link: https://legacy.revelstokecurrent.com//2012/04/20/as-the-tumbleweeds-roll-through-town/

Over the past week since the first part of this story was released, discussions about the shoulder season have occurred a little more frequently.  The two sides of the coin are very prevalent.  On one hand, people wish the town was a little busier to support business and on the other, they appreciate the quiet times that come in spring and fall.  The interesting thing is that most people believe that the only way to support business is to increase tourism, which means that they would lose the quiet time they enjoy so much.

The issue with that line of thinking is it doesn’t allow for much outside of the box.  Tourism is very much relegated to specific seasons.  There are many that believe the magic bullet would be to develop a world class event during the shoulder seasons and that will make us truly a year round destination.  Reality is that we are summer and winter, it would take years to develop such an event, and in the end anything in the shoulder seasons will need to “cannibalize” from the local population.  No, in this case expanded tourism is not the answer.

While discussing this with a friend and relating the story of the tech park, it was put into perspective very well.  She acknowledged the abundance of “blue collar” jobs available at places like Downie Timber and CP Rail, as well as the abundance of low paying, front line tourism related jobs.  However, she explained apart from many union protected, public sector service jobs, there is a lack of “white collar” jobs, something that the fleeting Tech Park proposal could have filled nicely.  Once the City of Revelstoke begins working on the long rumoured Economic Development Strategy to fit in with the Official Community Plan, perhaps this is an area they should choose to target?

Creating new jobs and opportunities should be a target area of the eventual Economic Strategy.  As opposed to putting more eggs in the tourism or resource sectors of our economy, the City should be looking at developing entirely new areas of opportunities.  Bringing in permanent residents that can earn higher incomes will stimulate all business in Revelstoke, not just those directly impacted by tourism.  Given the successful winter season the tourism industry just had, it is perhaps safe to say that we are exiting the developmental stage of the tourism life cycle and moving towards steady growth.  The “wheels” are safely installed on the “bus” and its rolling down the highway.  It still needs guidance, but now it’s time to get some other “vehicles” on the road to economic stability.

An added benefit to economic diversity is the stability it gives to residents from a social outlook.  Earlier it was discussed that many people have moved on over the years and friendships change almost as quickly as the seasons.  One has to wonder what sort of impact these transitional relationships have on the fabric of the social situation in our community.  This too has led to some great discussions in the past week.

In a community like ours it can be difficult to make close ties with others.  It is a tightly knit community with a deep history.  Over the past 5 seasons of ski resort development, the community has seen a great number of people transition their way in and sometimes out of town.  Some of the rampant localism can be traced to this issue.  Similar to hosting an unfamiliar person in your home, sometimes one becomes more protective of property when faced with the uncertainty of strangers.  Why should your new ideas and perspective be accepted when history demonstrates that you’ll likely be moving on?  It becomes easier to keep others at arms length this way.  There’s no incentive to become good friends with someone who will be packing up and leaving town as soon as the resort closes, is there?

It is all these factors that has led to the proliferation of the idea that Revelstoke tends to “chew up and spit out” good people on a seasonal basis.  Once one’s savings are all spent, their seasonal job lays them off due to the shoulder season lull, and the friends one had move on to greener pastures, it can be hard to find the means to stick around.  It’s only then that one realizes Revelstoke has never truly changed despite everything going on around it.  Revelstoke is and always has been a place where an individual works hard to carve out a living and a place to call home.  It’s the cowboys and cowgirls who stick around in this “wild west” community, and watch the tumbleweeds roll by once the rest have moved on.