Editorial – Opportunity continues to knock

Jeff Burgar

“There’s more to Alberta than the Calgary Stampede or the picturesque roads that wind through Banff.”

So says no less an authority than the Calgary Herald newspaper. The paper then tells readers there are “7 places in Alberta everyone should visit at least once.” Here’s the list:

1. Wood Buffalo National Park. Yes, it’s way up there on the northern edge of Alberta. A UNESCO World Heritage Site about the size of the entire country of Switzerland. Also, the largest park in Canada. But no Swiss clocks here, we suspect.

2. The Drumheller Badlands. Also a World Heritage Site. The Tyrell Museum is right next door.

3. The new library in Calgary. Yes. A must see for tourists. Apparently filled with 450,000 books. And a cafe. Wow!

4. Kananaskis. Something for everybody, the paper says. Horseback riding. Fishing. Climbing. And so much more. Also, close to mountains.

5. Tangle Falls. Right in the mountains on the Icefield Parkway to Jasper.

6. Heh, heh! Vegreville. “World’s away from any urban centre,” says the paper. What? No perogies?

7. Last but not least, Canmore. Another mountain place.

Honestly, is it any wonder the resource pipeline south is a metre wide, and the money coming back trickles through a garden hose?

If this is the piddle readers are fed in Southern Alberta, no wonder at all. Southern Alberta, if anybody doesn’t know, is anything south of Swan Hills. The geographic centre is claimed to be just south of Swan Hills, up a hiking trail. Barrhead, Westlock, Edmonton, Vegreville and Calgary are all in southern Alberta. So, of the seven places you gotta see according to the Herald, six of them are in southern Alberta. Five are “deep south”.

With a bit of looking, one can find all sorts of things about Alberta online. Wood Buffalo National Park is mentioned several times. Outside of that, it is easy to think, there really isn’t much in this province except mountains, more mountains, West Edmonton Mall, the hoodoos around Drumheller. And did we mention mountains?

If we really care about promoting tourism in our northern half of this province, we are doing a crummy job. We found a mention of Lesser Slave Lake. Another of the Vegreville Pysanka. One mention of the Falher Bee. Mention of Beaverlodge’s Beaver. St. Paul’s Flying Saucer. But all in all, a pretty pathetic bunch of non-promotion.

For our part of the world, two of the best places to promote ourselves would be in Edmonton and Grande Prairie. Yet, the Edmonton Sportsman Show in March had nobody from the northwest of Alberta, at least as far as we could see. Cold Lake, Bonnyville and St. Paul had booths. So did fishing camps from Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

There are good reasons why so little is done from this part of the world. It’s expensive to do a good job. There are few people in tourism. Energy, forestry and government dominate the economy.

So, Alberta remains, dinosaurs and mountains and “southern” Alberta.

And a real nice park! Way, way up there in the north.

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