Published on Jun 29, 2022 at 09:05

By Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Fresh faces to a community can bring fresh ideas if you take the time to ask questions — or so goes the logic behind a survey the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass conducted back in March.

The survey was open on the municipality’s website for three weeks and asked that new residents respond to a variety of questions to determine what was attracting people to the area. Crowsnest Pass council reviewed the results during its June 14 regular meeting.

One hundred and fifty-three residents responded to the survey, with the majority having moved to the Pass within the past 10 years; 90 per cent owned their own homes and almost 95 per cent lived in Crowsnest Pass full time.

When asked why they had decided to move to Crowsnest Pass, respondents listed a host of reasons, including recreation opportunities (61.2 per cent), a new job (34.2 per cent), housing (25.7 per cent), family (21.7 per cent), and retirement (16.5 per cent).

Residents’ employment also varied, with 17.6 per cent indicating they worked in natural resources, 11.5 per cent in both education and health care, respectively, 6.1 per cent in tourism and 2.7 per cent in recreation. 37.2 per cent indicated they worked in other categories not listed in the survey, such as accounting, construction, transportation and telecommunications.

The survey asked for suggestions from residents on various topics. Many noted the excellent trail system the municipality maintained and suggested it be expanded; an increase in subsidized child care was recommended, along with encouraging more business investment.

Topics like coal mining and restricting short-term tourist rentals received mixed responses in terms of support and opposition. Concerns about the availability of affordable housing and programs for young adults were also common.

The difference between people moving to Crowsnest Pass for jobs was of particular importance to Coun. Lisa Sygutek, who said that despite recreation playing a big factor in attracting people to the area, it was jobs in natural resources, education and health care that ultimately helped them stay.

“I want to be very careful that when we’re looking at this, that we’re recognizing that clearly the majority of people are coming here for three types of jobs. And that says a lot to me,” she said.

Though recognizing other economic opportunities besides coal mining, Sygutek said the high demand for workers by Teck Resources for its mines in British Columbia was something council needed to take advantage of.

“We can look for new people and there’s new opportunities, but at the end of the day we do have an industry that’s hiring voraciously and we need to make sure we get them moving here,” Sygutek said.

Coun. Vicki Kubik disagreed, viewing the high number of respondents who moved to the area for recreation as an indication that people were willing to take a pay cut to be close to the outdoors.

“I still say that we are sitting on a gold mine in terms of not coal, but moving forward in terms of tourism and promoting that industry,” Kubik said.

Instead of relying on coal development, Kubik said the municipality could pursue options like a provincial park designation, as well as utilizing the development plan to create projects to attract developers.

“There are opportunities outside of the mine and outside of education and health care in order to employ people,” she added. “We just have to be more visionary and move forward on our strategic plan.” 

Regardless of interpretation, CAO Patrick Thomas said the survey was a valuable tool to facilitate council discussions and decisions, and future surveys will show if a trend exists between a resident’s time living in the community and the type of responses given.

“That’s kind of the next iteration,” he said. “We’ll be using this information to help inform possible future changes in service as well as our future marketing campaigns on tracking new residents and new initiatives for council.”

The next Crowsnest Pass council meeting will be held Tuesday, July 5, 7 p.m. in council chambers.

This item reprinted with permission from Shootin’ the Breeze, Pincher Creek, Albrta