4.5 million visitors roll through each year, a busy national highway and railway, and two towns and two hamlets occupy much of the flat ground in an otherwise rugged landscape.
The Bow Valley is the most developed landscape where grizzly bears still exist, and one of the most expensive places for people to live.
We are already at or beyond the threshold where wildlife and the average wage earners, the core people in our community, are disappearing.
Our core challenges revolve around Affordability, Environmental Protection, and Responsible Development.
Canmore is the least affordable place to live in Alberta and amongst the most expensive in Canada. Situated between Banff National Park and the City of Calgary, our accessibility, scenery, abundant recreational opportunities, clean air and water, and wildlife make our town not just an attractive place to live, but also to own a recreational property. The demand for second homes has driven house prices and rents beyond the reach of most workers and their families. Tragically, around 30% of Canmore houses sit dark and unoccupied while many of the people who work, shop and go to school struggle for a place to live.
Several initiatives attempt to address this issue but they have been woefully inadequate. The Town of Canmore set a goal of 1,000 affordable units back in 2005 and only has 260 units 15 years later. We need a radical new approach if we are to avoid the fate of similar towns with similar pressures. TSMV lands are our last chance to get it right and that includes making up for a longstanding, community-wide affordable housing shortfall. 10% or even 20% is not enough; 50% is what’s required. Innovative funding and partnership models could get us there. But doing so is going to require courage and vision.
Our landscape is changing. Canmore’s mean annual temperature is anticipated to rise 1.9°C over the next 30 years with broad consequences for glaciers, winter snowpack, streamflow, wildfires, forest pests, and regional ecosystems. Like many jurisdictions, the Town of Canmore declared a State of Climate Emergency and developed an Action Plan that commits us to reduce our 2015 Greenhouse Gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Reaching this goal will take strong and courageous leadership.
Our coexistence with wildlife is being challenged. Canmore sits in one of the most constricted and developed parts of a continentally significant wildlife corridor that locally connects Banff National Park to Kananaskis Country. Current development pressures are severing this connection, which will result in less accessible food for animals, fewer den sites, and limited mating opportunities. Such “habitat fragmentation” is the process by which species go extinct.
Canmore is a beautiful, friendly, and welcoming place to live: it is big enough for all the necessary amenities, but still small enough to unexpectedly encounter friends, artists, local Olympic heroes and our mayor and councillors on the streets. We value our wild neighbours and work hard to coexist with them. We strive to retain young families and the workers who drive our local economy as real estate prices continue to soar.
Weaving such a community fabric takes deliberate effort and is built on a foundation of the past efforts of citizens and elected representatives who stitched together guidelines, bylaws, agreements and policies which make our community the special place it is today. That’s why responsible development is so important — to safeguard everything we love about our community and to maintain the special balance we have with nature.