Replicating success

It takes tax payer dollars to fund new ideas, and nothing raises hackles like spending new money.

Emile Sheffel’s arrival in Burns Lake for the village’s new position as the region’s economic development officer will invite a lot of scrutiny, especially in a small town like Burns Lake.

I’m not saying that there’s a lot of resistance to change in Burns Lake, but doubtless there will be those who wonder what their tax dollars are being spent on now.

There is a cranky cross-section of any given society, no matter how small or large, that views any change – or anything new for that matter – with knee-jerk, out-right rejection.

I recall a conversation I overheard a while ago at a public forum where elected village officials met with small working groups of interested Burns Lake citizens to talk about municipal affairs.

One gentleman took issue with all the money being spent to expand and improve mountain biking in the area, when the ‘real’ value in Burns Lake is the fishing.

Fishing, his argument went, is part of the natural beauty that is the Lakes District, just sitting their ready to be enjoyed without the need to build a network of trails or the need to apply for grant money to build trails.

Fishing is ready-made, natural, outdoor goodness just sitting there waiting to be taken advantage of. Or so the idealization goes.

The reality is, fishing is a low-impact outdoor activity only if you don’t count the highways, forest service roads, boat launches, fuel, outriggers, downriggers, fish sonar, composite rods, trolling motors, motoring motors, and so on, involved in dropping your hook in the water.

Unless you portage your dug-out canoe in from the highway through untrammeled forest, I’d suggest that modern fishing is about as natural as a space walk. Or at least, mountain biking is no less natural.

But I digress.

The point is, it’s hard to please everybody. Tourism has transformed a number of small B.C. communities that had previously lost a cylinder or two in their economic engines.

Look at Revelstoke as an example. Come summer months, the town is jammed with mountain bikers and tourists pulling in to town. Trail development there is second to none.

When you look at the success surrounding improvements to tourism and outdoor adventure options in small communities, the only question that remains is, why didn’t anyone think of this before? How did so many small B.C. communities become almost entirely dependent on the fortunes of one mill or one industry?

While there’s no short answer to that question, it might have something to do with a resistance to change and to new ideas.

It takes tax payer dollars to fund new ideas, and nothing raises hackles like spending new money. People want accountability, and rightfully so, but maybe we should ask how different the situation in Burns Lake would be today if in the past economic diversification had been the front-running concern it is becoming now.