It has been a year since my last column, yet it seems like a lifetime ago.
At that time, I wrote about the jubilant mood in our city as we prepared to welcome Rogers Hometown Hockey and showcase our community on national television. Talk about the difference a year makes! However, rather than dwell on the negatives, I would like this article to highlight some of the bright spots in what has been, in the apropos words of Alexander, a terrible, horrible no good, very bad year.
Positive number one is how our community has been stepping up to support local retailers. This fall our Economic Development Society teamed up with Shopify to help businesses build websites and transition to online sales. Despite the allure of online giants like Amazon, many local businesses reported record sales this holiday season. The retailers I spoke with attributed this to a broad commitment on the part of holiday shoppers to “buy local.”
Positive number two is that more than ever people are getting outside and taking advantage of our city’s outdoor recreational opportunities. For example, Larch Hills, ShuswapTrail Alliance and the Salmon Arm Snowblazers club have seen usage increase significantly. The Salty Dog may have been cancelled, but the number of rides logged on the South Canoe trails have doubled since last year. Meanwhile, outdoor equipment stores have noted record demand, with backcountry gear and skis flying off shelves. This desire to get outside in light of pandemic restrictions prompted the city to allocate a chunk of our COVID relief grant towards trail construction and maintenance.
Positive number three is the record home sales occurring in our community. The pandemic is allowing people to work remotely, and young professionals and families are flocking to the sunny Shuswap. This bodes well for our residential construction industry, tax base, as well as local businesses and services.
Positive number four: after difficult budget proceedings last week, mayor and council were able to keep this year’s tax increase very low at 0.5 per cent.
On a final (upbeat) note, January 16 marked the arrival of the first batch of Moderna vaccines to our community. Vaccinations for frontline health workers and long-term care residents are now underway. In the depths of this COVID winter, it is hard to see it, but there is light at the end of this tunnel.
Debbie Cannon is a councillor with the City of Salmon Arm.