When Debbie and I go places, we always learn new things.
Our long-awaited trip to the Yukon was packed full of learning, adventure and fun!
I’m sure it is the same for other mayors and councillors. When we travel, we always look at how other places do things. Debbie is a great sport, visiting recycling centres, sewage treatment plants, city halls and, most recently, underpasses in other communities.
On our travels north, I was especially interested in downtowns. Every community is trying to revitalize their downtown.
We saw vibrant downtowns, quiet downtowns and empty downtowns.
The common ingredients for vibrant, busy downtowns was easy to see. Trees, greenery and places to sit are essential. Public art, music and patios all add to the aura. Easy access and clear signage is important. Friendly, unique and pleasing presentation of retail, whether that be boutiques, mixed retail or cafés, attract shoppers.
Events bring in locals and tourists. Regular events like farmer’s markets, the playing of music, and craft displays are popular. Annual events like fairs and festivals bring people to town. We especially enjoyed the agrotourism and Indigenous tourism offerings.
The entrance to a town creates a first impression for the traveller. This impression may determine whether they stop or travel through. The sign forest in Watson Lake, the Mile 0 sign-post in Dawson Creek and the jaw-dropping mountain back-drop in Haines Junction are all examples of this.
People look for parks, either to stop and stretch, or to picnic and explore. We found the public parks in Quesnel and Whitehorse particularly welcoming. Right along the main roadway, easy pull off, shade trees and well-maintained trail systems attracted us.
Travelling always reinforces the importance of diversifying our economy. We visited towns that had a heavy reliance on the forest industry. In some cases, mills that were primary employers in the area have closed. It is difficult to replace these jobs. Every sector of the economy is important: agriculture, fishing, technology, manufacturing, construction, forestry and mining. While perhaps not all of these apply to our area, we need to always work towards diversifying employment.
Our trip to the north reinforced to us what a big, beautiful country we live in. Amazing areas like Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, Kluane National Park and Reserve and Tombstone Territorial Park are just a few.
There is so much to explore… and learn.
Alan Harrison is the mayor of Salmon Arm.
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