Every successful person seems to have his or her share of critics, but no one has ever accused Blue River heli-ski operator Mike Wiegele of thinking too small or too short-term.
Wiegele’s “Yellowhead Corridor” idea is a case in point. His proposal is that businesses and communities from Mount Robson to Kamloops should work together to develop the Robson and North Thompson valleys as important tourist destinations.
The plan should be long-term, he says – 50 years or more.
This proposal has merit. For far too long we’ve had far too many of this area’s economic eggs in the lumber basket. The temporary closures and permanent shutdowns of various sawmills from Louis Creek to Valemount we’ve experienced over the past 10 years demonstrate the limitations of this approach.
It appears that several mines might open in the area during the next few years, but these will only offer us a respite. Mining is even more boom and bust than the forest industry.
What would a community based on the tourism industry look like? Jasper and Banff could offer examples. They are both attractive towns with a wide variety of amenities. Yes, many of the jobs are at the lower end of the wage scale, but there are also quite a few that pay extremely well.
Land use and land tenure are key issues. Except for a few spots of settlement in the valley bottoms, nearly all of the North Thompson and Robson valleys are Crown land – and what isn’t, is provincial park.
The old free-for-all approach for using Crown and provincial park lands is no longer good enough.
If our goal is community stability and growth, then the ideal likely would be to have a variety of small, medium and large businesses serving a variety of clienteles and recreation activities.
To get to that ideal, planning is needed and, more importantly, an increasing measure of local control.
Over the past couple of years, representatives from Simpcw First Nation, the districts of Barriere and Clearwater, as well as the valley’s Thompson-Nicola Regional District electoral areas, have met in a series of community-to-community forums.
Perhaps it is time to expand one or more of those forums to include valley business leaders to explore the potential of Wiegele’s Yellowhead Corridor proposal.