Smoky River Regional Economic Development

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional
Economic Development


Spring has sprung

There is no question, spring is my favorite time of the year. It has always been my favorite, but never more so than in this region.
I can vividly recall driving up to the Smoky region in February of 2000. The highway from Edmonton was four-lane, all the way up to Valleyview. I turned right at Valleyview and made my way up Highway 2. The beauty of the region hit me a few kilometers north of Valleyview. The fields opened up and spread wide across the landscape.
A few kilometers more and the Smoky River valley greeted me. A little further down the road and the iconic outbuilding with the Canadian flag painted on the side said welcome to the Smoky region. Since that first drive up to the Smoky region, I feel the same way every time.
Well that initial trip was in the middle of a cold winter. The ground was hard and the fields were snow covered. The days were short and the nights were long. On the positive side, the days were sunny and the snow was crisp and white.
It wasn’t long before spring made its appearance. The snow melted, the temperature warmed and the days grew longer and longer. Spring had come and the Smoky region was more beautiful than ever. Now not everyone appreciates the beauty of the prairies. Most people like the oceans or the mountains or the even the forests.
I like all those things as well, however, being born in southern Saskatchewan I guess I am biased to the prairies. My wife has family on Vancouver Island, somewhere I don’t much care for. The trees are too tall, there is too much rain and not enough sunshine. We still head out once in awhile for a visit, and for that purpose, Vancouver Island is fine.
My wife and I also like to go to Mexico on holidays. We both appreciate the view of the ocean, however we’re not beach people so that’s not the attraction. We love the history, the culture, the architecture and the people. Our favourite destination in Mexico is Puerto Vallarta. We have travelled a lot in Mexico but Puerto Vallarta has a real sense of community and family, all which adds to what makes Puerto Vallarta our favorite.
Surprisingly, those are the things I love about the Smoky and Peace regions. Some people may argue we lack the history, the architecture and the culture of Mexico, but I would argue that.
Indeed, our architecture is not as old, but it is every bit unique. Whether it be the old grain elevators or the traditional train stations. I also love our old farm buildings, the rows of metal silos and even the typical little community cafes.
Our history is exciting, dynamic and young. Most people in this region either still have living relatives that can recall breaking the land up here, or they still have family that can retell stories from their grandparents.
I also disagree with people who argue we lack a culture in Canada. Our region certainly has a strong French culture, but we also have a strong agriculture culture, an explorer culture and an entrepreneurial culture. Keep in mind most of our businesses here were started by locals, people who saw an opportunity and took a chance.
But what I like best about this region is the sense of family and community. It is always amazes me how many generations of families still live in the region. It amazes me how many of our young people return to the region because of family. And it is always refreshing to see how proud people are proud to be from this region. We often hear about the rivalry between two municipalities, often related to some hockey game some 50 years ago. Well it’s true we should let those things go, but really they are an example of people’s pride for their community.
Now that spring is here we will start to leave the comforts of our homes and get out to visit our family and neighbours. We will pull out the gloves and baseball bats. Motorcyclists are already polishing up their bikes, getting ready to hit the road. RV owners are planning their first trip. Family reunions are being planned and community events are being organized.
Spring is the time we rediscover everything we love about our communities and we do it with a sense of newness. And right now, with our economy faltering, it has come just in time.

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