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KIMBERLEY: MINING COMMUNITY TO TOURIST TOWN
During the summer, a woman dressed in a dirndl and playing an accordion walks around the platzl in downtown Kimberley, chatting with tourists sitting outside the restaurants or browsing through the shops. She is interrupted frequently by the figure in lederhosen who comes out and yodels on the hour or when someone puts a quarter in the clock located at one end of the platzl. In the winter the platzl is decked out with snow, colourful lights are strung from the trees and lampposts and skiers grace the downtown core after a day on the hill. From this contemporary view of the community, its history and present association with one of the world's largest lead, zinc and silver mines can be missed completely. The Sullivan mine though is not far from the tourist side of the Kimberley, geographically, economically, or culturally. The development of tourism in the community over the past two decades is one of the important ways that it has been adapting to a number of broader economic forces outside the community, including the widespread local recognition that the Sullivan mine will probably close around the turn of the century due to the depletion of the orebody.
At present, the development of Kimberley's tourist potential and the promotion of the community as a destination resort is part of the official planning process with the clear goal of ensuring the economic viability of the town when Cominco, the mine's owner, curtails production. The foundation for this planning process lay in the past when decisions were made and actions taken which were neither a product of municipal planning nor with a clear recognition of the permanent shutdown of the Sullivan mine in the minds of those initiating the changes. In the case of Kimberley, the economic, social and cultural changes in evidence today resulted from local responses to a variety of local and regional factors at play, and the impact of global competitiveness in the mining industry. In this way Kimberley is like most other resource based communities trying to cope with the effects of globalization and deindustrialization (Laxer, 1995; Bluestone, 1982; Cooke, 1986; Featherstone, 1990; Martin & Rowthorn, 1986; and Warwick & Littlejohn, 1992, to name a few). Because of this, there is significant literature in the resource based community (e.g. Moore & Squires, 1991; Lucas, 1971; MacMillan et al, 1974; House, 1981; Clemenson, 1992; Clement, 1981; Bowles, 1982; Bradbury, 1978; and Marchak, 1982). We can also add to this literature research published on the topic of plant closures, which also tend to be associated with globalization and deindustrialization in the modern context, and which are often set in smaller rural or resource based communities (Buss et al, 1987; Hansen, 1980 and 1988; Neil et al, 1992; Root, 1984 and 1988; and Leach & Winson, 1995).
However, this case study departs from the typical research done on these topics in a number of ways. First, the analysis of the broader regional, national and international factors will be discussed in this paper to reveal something of the process of local adaptation to economic change in a particular community. The emphasis will be on the local responses to these broader economic forces impacting on the community. Secondly, although a number of research methodologies were used in the collection of the data, ethnographic methods were the primary research tools. I am familiar with the community, both as a researcher and a resident, and my association with the community has spanned 20 years. Finally, the focus of the research has been on the process of adaptation to the economic changes that have occurred in the community. As such this paper will discuss the economic, cultural and social changes that have occurred in Kimberley and how these changes have resulted in the community moving away from being a typical mining community. The transition from a mining community to a tourist town in the case of Kimberley is, at this point, neither a foregone conclusion, although all indications point to it, nor is it a panacea for the economic problems that beset a community when it loses its traditional economic base. However, it does provide a case study of the sociocultural consequences of economic change at the community level which may yield important insights for a process which is becoming a reality for many communities across Canada and around the world.
The Town of Kimberley is located between the Rocky and Purcell Mountains in southeastern British Columbia. Its present population is 6,530 (Statistics Canada, Pacific Region: 1991) which has remained quite stable over its recent history despite changes in employment patterns in the mine and the development of tourism. What is now the town of Kimberley started as a number of camps; Kimberley organized around the mine in 1897; Chapman Camp organized around the concentrator, and Marysville organized around a former smelter. In 1944 Kimberley incorporated as a town and in 1968 Chapman Camp and Marysville amalgamated with Kimberley, creating the present community. All of the mining operations were owned and managed by Cominco, a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific, for most of the town's history. Until incorporation, Kimberley was a company town. The company owned and operated the power plant, the water and sewer systems, and much of the community's infrastructure, complete with a company store. Although the community still has strong ties to the company, especially with respect to the municipal tax base, they have become much weaker in the decades since incorporation. In 1986, CP sold controlling interest in the Sullivan to an international multinational, Teck Corporation, and although the company had been distancing itself more and more from its direct involvement in the community prior to the changeover in ownership, the local population identify the Tech takeover as a turning point in the company-town relationship. The company now is perceived as having a much more "bottom line" attitude, as compared to the "community" attitude that it had under the previous owners.
While the mine and its operations have dominated economic life for all of the community's history, there is another side to the community. It is situated geographically where there is tremendous potential for outdoor recreation, skiing, hiking, fishing, hunting and camping, in particular. It has marvellous mountain scenery and abundant wildlife. It is surrounded by federal and provincial parks and is known as the Serengeti of North America by big game hunters. Initially, people moved to Kimberley and stayed because of the economic benefits of good secure jobs in the mine. During the depression, for example, Cominco had a 24 million dollar payroll. However, leisure time activities organized around the outdoor recreational pursuits still played an important part of community life. More recently job opportunities have declined substantially, but people still come and stay because of the lifestyle that the community provides. As such, there was a basis for the development of tourism based on the outdoor recreational opportunities that had already been incorporated into the lifestyle of the community. However, initially these were developed to meet the needs of the local population rather than to attract tourists. The process in which this change occurred is an important part of the overall transition that occurred in the community.
Economic Enviironment in the 1960's
By the 1960's mechanization allowed production levels at the mine to be increased without increasing the workforce, which in turn increased the company's competitiveness in the global metals market. Even so, there was still considerable optimism with respect to Cominco operations in Kimberley, as can be seen in this analysis by the province's Bureau of Economics and Statistics:
The Cominco Ltd. operations in all probability will continue to be not only the main source of revenue, but the backbone of the economy. Continuing expansion of these operations is expected, and will most likely dwarf the importance of developments in the sectors analyzed most thoroughly in this report.(5)
Nonetheless, the mechanization of the mine, combined with the regional economic changes, led the consultants to recommend diversification in Kimberley's economy. The major reason for this was the analysis of local trade patterns. While Kimberley was characterized by high income levels at that time, local retail businesses were not reaping the economic benefits.
Despite the fact that the level of income in the area is among the highest in the Province and the fact that there is no significantly larger centre of population within easy reach, per capita retail sales are low relative to other comparable centres. In 1961, retail sales in Kimberley amounted to $1,011 per capita (Marysville recorded $995 per capita) placing the City in 46th place among the 63 incorporated centres with population over 1,000 in British Columbia (Bureau of Economics and Statistics, 1967:29).
Cranbrook, a community to the south of Kimberley was, from a trade standpoint, doing significantly better than Kimberley, this despite the fact that at the time it was not much bigger than Kimberley and had lower per capita income levels. During the decade of the 60's Cranbrook growth continued. This resulted from a number of regional economic changes taking place at that time. Crestbrook Forest Ìndustries, a forest company headquartered in Cranbrook, established a pulp mill at Skookumchuck, north of the junction on the highway to Cranbook and Kimberley. Although Kimberley did experience some growth as a result of the new pulp mill, it did not manage to capture the resident population associated with the new mill. At the same time, the coal mines in the Elk Valley to the southeast of Cranbrook were anticipating expansion as a result of coal sales to Japan.
The outlook for mining in the East Kootenay region has been considerably brightened by the prospect of greatly increased coal shipments from the Fernie area. Negotiations between Crow's Nest Industries Ltd., Kaiser Steel Corporation of the United States, and a consortium of Japanese steel firms, produced a $650,000,000 contract calling for the sale of approximately 51 million tons of coal to Japan over a 15-year period ..., however, firms in Cranbrook should reap some returns from this coal mining activity. Initially, firms supplying heavy equipment, mechanical parts, transportation equipment, etc., should record increased sales. Also establishments providing business services, such as engineering and consulting firms, will be in demand. Contracts will likely involve Cranbrook transport and construction firms (Dept. of Industrial Development, Trade, and Commerce, 1968:48-49).
Cranbrook was able to position itself as a regional centre as a result of taking advantage of the spin-offs from these two major economic developments in the region.
Cranbrook also increased its regional status and improved its retail trade sector by becoming home to the first shopping mall in the Kootenays in 1970. Further, the road to Cranbrook through Wasa and Fort Steels was upgraded in the decade of the 60's; a new bridge was built and the heritage town of Fort Steele was developed as a significant tourist attraction. All of these changes served to make this road the main thoroughfare as well as providing a reason for people to stop. Previously, the main road to Cranbrook from the north went through Kimberley, but now the town could be bypassed. The highway between Cranbrook and Kimberley was upgraded at the same time, but given the changing traffic and shopping patterns, this only served to draw people from Kimberley to shop in Cranbrook.
So, although fear of a closure of the Sullivan wasn't yet a concern by the residents of Kimberley, other economic indicators, including overall mine employment levels, were not particularly optimistic. The town had developed and grown over the years but it still retained the look of a mining community, as indeed it was, which meant that there was little to attract anyone to the community except the job opportunities that were there.1 In particular, there was little to attract tourists. It was in this economic context that the ski club in Kimberley commissioned the economic survey quoted above. In addition to laying out the economic realities of the day, it made a strong recommendation, quite prophetic given Kimberley's development, for economic diversification, particularly in the area of tourism.
The Kimberley area evidences considerable potential in the tourist trade sector. It is believed that an imaginative and energetic approach, together with a carefully planned comprehensive long-term program, could raise the value of tourism to the point where it would be a very important source of revenue. (Bureau of Economics and Statistics, 1976:17).
The consultants also recommended that:
consideration be given to a program of urban renewal and civic beautification to make Kimberley more attractive as a place in which to live, as a place to visit, and as a place in which to shop. (Bureau of Economics & Statistics, 1967:13).
All these factors, the downsizing of the Caminco workforce through mechanization, the regional economic change, and recommendations of the consultant's report, along with the increasing concern on the part of the downtown merchants of the changing shopping patterns, generated some action by a few businessmen in Kimberley.
The Bavarianization Project
The action came by way of the establishment of a committee of business people, eventually called the Bavarian Society, who brought about a transformation of the downtown core in 1973. However, initially, it was simply an informal group of businessmen who met in a local restaurant and began to devise a strategy to deal with the situation. While a number of ideas were presented, an urban renewal scheme focussing on changing Kimberley's downtown core to a pedestrian mall with a Bavarian exterior won out in the end. This followed the recommendations set out by the consultants.
In order to upgrade the central business district, consideration should be given to the establishment of a city centre pedestrian mall. Perhaps Spokane Street, between Wallinger Avenue and Kimberley Avenue, together with Deer Park Avenue, between Spokane Street and Howard Street, could be closed to vehicular traffic. This would result in a traffic-free, three block T-shaped area in the commercial core of the City. A pedestrian mall with a basic underlying theme might then be constructed to unify this area producing a highly compact, attractive, and convenient shopping centre (Bureau of Commerce & Statistics: 1976: 43).
The publisher of the local paper spearheaded the organization and, within a year, the committee had: 1) brought City Hall on board; 2) hired an architect and town planner to work out the architectural and planning details; 3) convinced the merchants in the downtown core to spend the money required to change their building fronts to conform to the Bavarian theme; 4) secured the revenue needed to develop the streets consistent with the plans, and 5) garnered the support of the community more generally for the project.
The original committee was small and there were many obstacles to implementing the scheme. The first was to convince the rest of the merchants and Kimberley residents that a problem existed and that it needed to be addressed, and that Bavarianization was a good solution. While businessmen may have been feeling the pinch of the economic changes, life for the average citizen was business as usual. The economic picture was bright and there was no economic threat to them by the changes taking place. Secondly, Kimberley was a town whose identity was that of a mining town. It also had a City Council who in the words of one of the original committee members "had been used to looking to Cominco for help with their problems. The company was always the way things got done in Kimberley". What was being proposed was not just a beautification scheme, but a change in community identify from that of a mining community dependent upon the company. Finally, the proposed change was also a foreign one; demographically speaking the community was not overly German.2 So the proposal was not an easy sell. Economics may have been the motivator for the change but included in the proposed economic solution was significant cultural change.
It was the physical surroundings that suggested the Bavarian theme. The project entailed the creation of a T-shaped pedestrian mall in the downtown with the businesses in the newly created "platzl" renovating the exterior of their buildings in a Bavarian motif. Other businesses would be encouraged to Bavarianize as well. This new identify for Kimberley would be symbolized in a logo featuring a character in lederhosen and holding a beer stein who, after a contest to name him, became "Happy Hans". One end of the platzl would be graced with the world's largest cuckoo clock, which was "Happy Hans" coming out for a yodel on the hour rather than a cuckoo bird call. The committee also undertook to build a
campground in the city which, along with the local hotels and motels, would "house" the tourists who would now be coming to Kimberley.
Through the work of the committee members, the project gained widespread public acceptance, municipal support and was eventually implemented.
Bavarianization and the Adaptation Process
As its most fundamental level, the Bavarianization project can be viewed as a strategy initiated by a group of Kimberley businessmen to attempt to solve their problem of declining business activity. However, to succeed, the plan needed widespread community support which had widespread consequences for the community. It was, in the end, a project associated with local cultural change; one necessitated by the reality of the constraints imposed by economic forces outside the control of the locals and it was part of the foundation which would later lead to more development of tourism as an official policy of economic development on the part of the municipal government. In 1973 it was not envisioned as a replacement for the mine, as no one was projecting the end of the ore body at that time.
While the government consultant and the committee set out deliberately to diversify the local economy by increasing tourism, neither group at that time imagined that they were setting in motion processes which would one day be seen as key to survival after Cominco leaves. Residents of the community at the time were even less aware of the eventual outcome of the project. Nowhere in the records, newspapers or interviews was there mention that anyone was preparing for the future without Cominco. However, with hindsight, it is possible to see how the Bavarianization project initiated a change which would be an important part of the transformation process.
An examination of the Bavarianization project is important for its role in the transition process overall, but it is also important context for understanding the development of Kimberley as a destination resort more recently. The Bavarianization project was especially important for its role in promoting Kimberley as a summer resort, but even before 1973 development was also taking place with respect to skiing that would also become important in the overall transition from mining to tourism.
Development of the North Star Ski Area
Given Kimberley's mountainous terrain and the fact there were Scandinavian families who had immigrated to the community, it is not surprising that skiing became a popular outdoor recreational pursuit in Kimberley's history. Skiing began in the community simply by virtue of the fact that those interested strapped on their skis and looked for the best places to engage in their sport. As a result, ski jumping was the first ski development that occurred in the community with jumps constructed at a number of
places around town. By the 1930's the popularity of the sport and the excellent jumps that Kimberley had, combined to make Kimberley the site of ski jumping tournaments, which over the decade attracted Olympic calibre international ski jumpers, mostly Norwegian at that time. At first though, the tournaments were mostly regional affairs, attracting jumpers from the East and West Kootenay communities. Most of these took place on a ski jump constructed on North Star Mountain below the present ski area. The fact that tournaments were being held in Kimberley necessitated at least some rudimentary organization and development of the sport. However, this was still on a very small scale and using only volunteers who had an interest in the sport. It had, though, organized to the point of having a ski club which began in 1930.
More development came with the move to slalom skiing, which in turn developed the North Star Mountain as the ski hill in Kimberley. A local skier by the name of Same Wormington, backed by Cominco resources, went on to develop the hill with some rope tows. Until then, skiers had to climb up the hill in order to ski down. The rope tow was an improvement but still not capable of taking people very far up the mountain. Sam had experienced skiing at Sun Valley and Alta after the war. These ski lifts had chair lifts and therefore offered the skier much more ski mileage. Concurrent with the move back to North Star and the developments on the hill, Sam had in mind a lift for Kimberley.
That trip convinced me of the need for uphill skier transportation for Kimberley if we were to stay in the ski picture. It was to take ten years to start to fulfil this goal ... I could have stayed and kept on skiing, but I wanted to see us have something like this close to home, so it was time to try to convince Kimberley what an addition of a ski lift could do, not only for the skier, but for the general economy. (Wormington, 1980: 499-500)
At Sam's instigation, the ski club began laying plans for a ski lift in 1955. At this stage of the development, Sam and probably others, began to see the ski hill as something more than a local recreational facility. To be sure, the earlier tournaments brought in outsiders, but what was behind these recent developments was the promotion of recreational skiing at Kimberley by outsiders. This was not an idea that initially had a great deal of support by Kimberley skiers. The development process up to that time was to improve the conditions for the local skiers, and considerable volunteer labour by those who would benefit from it was devoted to the improvements made.
The construction of the T-bar and the improvements of the ski hill at the same time moved the ski hill development from something that could be accomplished by volunteer labour and capital raised by socials put on by ski club members. While volunteer labour continued, and still continues to play an important role in skiing in Kimberley, capital investments made at the time and since have necessitated the commercialization of skiing in the community, as can be seen in this excerpt from my field notes:
As long as you were a member you had the use of everything. There were no outsiders - it was strictly a club operation. Back in 1958 when we put in the T-bar that was the first time that we had a commercial operation. That's when we started moving towards a commercial operation. (ski club members involved at the time of the installation of T-bar).
Certainly this was the vision that Sam Wormington had at the time, but it was not shared unanimously by the skiing community of Kimberley. However, Sam's influence in the ski club was enough to begin the process of turning the operation into a commercial endeavour and he himself became the first paid manager of the operations in 1958. By 1962, though, Sam was unable to convince the executive of the ski club that his vision for the ski hill, which at the time included plans for further runs and another lift, was the right way to go, or as he says:
By 1962 the Kimberley Ski Club Society had reached a plateau of complacency and the feeling seemed to be, there is enough here for Kimberley, why try to expand or improve? Some members even resented the visitors who came and left their tourist dollars because it caused a modest lift line on the weekends. At that time most ski areas were managed by people who had a vested interest in the enterprise; a salaried manager with no other income was not that common. When some of the executive suggested that I be laid off in the summer, it was time to look at some of the offers that had come my way. Naturally, there were some mixed feelings about leaving because the many people who had worked so hard were our friends.... All things considered, I decided to stay at Kimberley's North Star for the 1962-63 season to assure that the club was in the black (Wormington, 1980: 540-541).
The reluctance of many Kimberleyites and skiers in particular to embrace Sam's vision of the North Star can be explained by the fact that skiing had developed in Kimberley as a consequence of local recreational needs and not as an economic generator. At that time Cominco was never going to close and life, from an economic point of view, was both good and secure. These ideas were summed up in a conversation I had with a teacher who lived and taught in Kimberley at that time, moved away, and returned later to retire here. He said:
Well I had some sympathy for that point of view (the reluctance of Kimberley residents to embrace the development of the ski hill to attract tourists) at that time. No one was thinking about the day when Cominco would be leaving and we were interested in making the skiing a good recreational pursuit for us.
Ironically, after Sam's departure, development on the hill did go on despite the opposition that Sam fought. The impetus to this next stage of development was the economic study done by the Provincial Bureau of Economics and Statistics that also initiated the idea of a downtown revitalization project which culminated in the Bavarianization project. Interestingly, it was the Ski Club that instigated the study and, although the author of the report considered all aspects of tourism, a major part of the recommendations were devoted to the development of the ski hill. The key elements of their recommendations regarding the hill were:
The facilities presently available were adequate for the residents of the area and the few visitors who initially used the hill, but they are not adequate to meet the needs of the numbers using the hill now. The most urgent need would seem to be for the installation of a chair lift to eliminate the waiting now necessary. The less waiting the skier has to do, the more likely he is to return. The satisfied skier will spread the word and more skiers will be attracted. For the effective and complete development of Kimberley as a ski resort, a new, modern lodge with complete facilities, and located on the hill, is essential. It should contain sleeping accommodation, a dining room and coffee shop, a liquor lounge, a large lounging room and a ski shop. Such a lodge is not only a prerequisite to the area's development as a winter resort, it also would encourage more intensive utilization of the hill by spreading business beyond weekend traffic. (Bureau of Economics & Statistics, 1967:24-25).
It is clear from these recommendations that if the Ski Club was to act on them there would be two consequences. The first is that the Club would officially be taking the path of development to increase tourist potential, and local recreational needs, if they were to be taken into account, would be secondary to the needs of visitors. Secondly, the plan would necessitate major capital investment. As such, the consultant recommended that the ski hill be turned over to the private sector or taken over by the City in order to ensure sufficient capital to develop it. The main thrust of the consultant's recommendations were taken, but not the idea that the Society sell the facility, or at least not at that time.
While the City had not been involved officially in the development of the ski hill prior to the 1960's, however, it did get involved after the club financed the development with a referendum by the city for a long-term loan. Once the involvement of the City began it continued to grow. In 1977 the City hired an architect/planner from Vancouver to develop a long-term community economic upgrading program. Part of the work that he contracted to do for the city was a master plan for the Kimberley Ski Resort. Contrary to the recommendations a decade earlier of the consultant from the Bureau of Economics and Statistics, this planner recommended that there be no housing development on the ski hill. Rather he felt that the downtown core should be built up to provide housing and other facilities for visitors and that the downtown and ski area be connected by a chair lift. The thrust of his plan was to keep the focus on the downtown for visitor accommodation and avoid the separation between the town and the ski area that could come about if the ski area could meet all the visitor needs there. This was a perception of development shared by the Bavarianization committee in the early seventies, as this excerpt from an interview with one of the original committee members illustrates:
We agreed that we would not do any development on the ski hill. The reason for that was that we had a plan to put in a chair lift system from the downtown core to the ski hill. We felt that the community would grow around this downtown core and everyone would be successful.
The development of visitor accommodation downtown and development of a recreational area on the hill could occur as long as the two were tied together. Therefore the chair lift was crucial to the plan from this perspective. However, the chair lift was the first recommendation that the City did not follow. But the City did begin to sell off its property to developers to build condominiums and, through a project society, built a campground, while another committee built a two and one-half kilometre rail circuit around the campground with plans to eventually extend the line downtown.
New condominium units were constructed by private developers on the hill and the ski club society expanded the ski facilities by putting in new runs and a triple chair lift in 1975. This represented a major expansion for North Star, increasing the area from 400 acres to over 1,200 acres. But, unfortunately, by the 1980's the society was running into serious financial difficulties and in 1985 they declared bankruptcy and the City took over the operation. Ironically, as a result of the club pursuing Sam's vision for North Star more than a decade after he left, the government consultant's recommendation that private developers or the City operate the ski area was fulfilled. The City had taken a cautious approach to expansion on North Star but had managed to avoid major financial difficulties. In order to remain competitive in the winter ski resort game, Kimberley needs significant capital investment which is beyond the ability of the City to provide. To resolve this problem, the City has put the ski hill on the market and early in the 1990's had some offers, the most serious one coming from a Japanese company in 1991. There have been two goals associated with the City's decision to sell: the first is that whoever is the successful buyer must be prepared to make and carry out significant development on the hill. The reason for this is that North Star still represents an important component of its plan to diversify Kimberley's economy by becoming a resort destination. The mayor indicates this very clearly in one of my interviews with him. He said, "We're not selling a ski hill, we're selling a year-round resort destination". The second goal was to allay the fears raised by residents and recognized by the consultant in the economic study, that locals could be priced out of the ski market if it becomes a private operation successfully catering to tourists. Again, the mayor has a response to those that have this fear. He said, "the deal includes a guarantee for local people to assure local access. The rates will not increase unreasonably over time".
By the 1990's resident opinions had either enthusiastically embraced the idea of the ski hill as part of an overall economic accompli. However, there was still resistance to both the sale of the ski hill and especially a sale to outsiders and foreigners on the part of some, albeit a minority, of the residents. While the majority of residents were in favour of the ski hill sale, they also had some reservations about the direction that the community might take if the deal went through. Interestingly, what they feared was too much success. Over and over again I heard in my interviews with people, "I just hope Kimberley doesn't become another Banff".3
In the end, the debate as to whether it was good or not, whether it would turn Kimberley into another Banff, and whether locals no longer would be able to ski on their hill, proved academic, at least for the time being. The deal fell through and, although the hill is still on the market, there hasn't been enough interest to have it become an issue again recently.
Embedded in this examination of the development of North Star are the differing perceptions that have accompanied the changes that have occurred. These have some parallels in the broader process of adaptation that is occurring in the town more generally. Given this similarity, it may be instructive to identify and discuss them in more detail. First, there has been a change in the function of the hill. Some involved in the development initially saw the potential for commercialization which would later be an important element of the community's economic strategy after the mine closed. However, this was not the function of the hill for more than half of its existence. Those who were involved in the early days and donated their resources and labour to the development were interested in meeting local recreational needs. While the two needs are not diametrically opposed, they can and do sometimes conflict with one another. This history of the development shows that these conflicts did arise and that those involved in the development for commercial purposes had to take these conflicts into account. Presently, the majority opinion is on the side of commercialization, but still there are those who resent or who sympathize with the resentment of those who did not then and do not now agree with the plan for commercialization. A concomitant set of perceptions that have arisen in more recent times as the City put the hill up for sale has been around the issue of local ownership and control versus outside ownership and control. Those who are concerned over the sale of the hill to outside interests are expressing fairly common fears about not only who will be controlling the development process but whose interests will the development meet. Despite reassurances by the City, many do not believe that there will be any real way to ensure access by locals to the hill if the hill is privately owned. This is well illustrated by this sentiment expressed by a retired businesswoman I interviewed:
The idea of Japanese investment in the ski hill scares me. Are we going to be able to afford to ski after they take over?
Finally, there are those who agree with both the commercialization and even the sale of the hill to private interests, but who disagree with the development on hill per se. These individuals fear that two independent development schemes, one downtown and one on the hill, will not succeed, or worse, that any development on the hill will come at the expense of the downtown. These perceptions arose from businessmen as the ski hill deal with the Japanese company looked promising, but it is also a perception held by a former resident who was active in the Bavarianization project, as these quotes indicate:
What, in my opinion, has happened now is that the community has grown in two separate areas, neither of which they are able to support successfully, both are struggling. There's not enough business. I feel that was one of the major stumbling blocks that the society ran into, there was too much development on the ski hill. If they had those beds down in the community itself, it would have been more successful. From a business perspective, you can't run two communities.
In the end, although these perceptions still persist, the decisions concerning North Star are moving in the direction of increased development on the hill and the City has been attempting to sell the hill to anyone who is prepared to develop the hill this way. It has attempted in the process to mitigate against some of the resident fears about access and about the separation of the hill and the downtown business core, but in the end the primary goal is still to encourage the necessary development to maximize the contribution that the hill will make in fulfilling its vision of Kimberley as a resort destination.
In addition, the City has been very much involved in moving toward that goal with another project - a second golf course to attract more vacationers to the community. While the development of the ski hill and golf course are separate and quite different from one another, presently they are quite interdependent in a number of ways. The City owns both, and the sale of the ski hill includes the golf course. Many think that it is the golf course which will entice the eventual buyer. In addition, the golf course was developed close to the ski hill and the development plans that they are promoting will be in the area between the ski hill and the golf course and in the area adjacent to the golf course and not in the downtown core. And, finally, enticing people to come and stay in Kimberley will be enhanced if there are recreational pursuits that can be promoted in more than one season. Therefore, golfing and skiing can be promoted as centrepieces in the all-season destination resort.
Development of the Trickle Creek Golf Course
Although there are these important connections between the golf course and the ski hill, in terms of the development process they were very different. These differences emerge from the two development processes taking place in different eras of Kimberley's history, one before the official plan to diversify into tourism and the other after. While volunteer help, especially in terms of organization, was and still is an important part of the development of Trickle Creek, it was eclipsed to a large extent by the involvement of government agencies from the beginning. The City of Kimberley, and especially the Economic Development Office, was intimately involved from the beginning but, in addition, the funding for the project included both Provincial and Federal government funds and therefore the involvement of the senior governments. As a result, the proponents of the golf course had to overcome hurdles put in the way by these outside agencies, as well as overcoming the skepticism and opposition that the project engendered from locals.
The golf course proposal came out of the deliberations with respect to upgrading the ski hill facilities, the development of the campground, and proposals to add summer tourist attractions on the ski hill. The Economic Development Office, which had been established by the City in the 1970's as a way of developing strategies for ensuring Kimberley's economic survival, became involved in all the various initiatives in tourism and it in turn created an organization, the Kimberley Community Development Society, to operate these facilities. This Society has considerable community input but it operates very closely, by virtue of its origins, mandate and personnel, with the City's Economic Development Office. It was under this organizational umbrella that the activities that culminated in the golf course took place. Building a second golf course was not the first or only proposal to increase the number of people visiting Kimberley in summer. Some of these other projects were completed and others were not. However, it was the golf course that captured the enthusiasm of those advancing the cause of summertime tourist activities.
In addition to the objections that funding agencies in the government had in granting money to the project, the project organizers did not find unanimous approval for the scheme at home. First there were financial problems in getting the project off the ground. The size of the capital investment required that the organizers piece together funding from a wide variety of sources. In addition to the difficulties in securing the funding sources, the project also experienced financial difficulties as a result of the costs of the project due to changes to the original plan for the course. These financial difficulties did not do very much to allay the fears of those in the community who were skeptical of the viability of a second golf course.
Despite both the opposition and the financial problems, the golf course was built and, unlike the ski hill which is still slowly trying to build its visitor days into a viable operation, the golf course has been successful in attracting golfers practically from the first season. With just three seasons under its belt, the golf course is not only generating favourable revenues for itself, but it is having an impact on the overall bookings to Kimberley according to the statistics at Kimberley Vacations, the marketing arm of the Kimberley Community Development Society. These excerpts from the local newspaper serve to confirm these impressions:
Golf Course Use Over Expectations
The Trickle Creek golf course went above and beyond in attracting golfers to the greens this year, with 8,000 more round of play this year over last.
"We had a very good year. We did about 25,000 rounds", said Darrell Burak, general manager of the Trickle Creek Resort.
"It's an increase from about 17,000 last year". Burak said the weather, the low Canadian dollar and the growing reputation of the course, were factors that brought in far more golfers than expected.
The financial picture for the course, which is just two years old, look promising.
Burak said that the course's operational costs were covered by revenue this year, in addition to a surplus available to finance some small capital projects, such as landscaping and work on the clubhouse patio and kitchen. (Daily Bulletin, October 7, 1994).
Optimism about the success of the golf course is generating support for it in the community, and the mayor and Economic Development Office staff do not hesitate to point out how wrong the naysayers were back in the days when they were attempting to get the project off the ground. It has been named as one of the ten best golf courses in Canada and a feasibility study for a new housing sub-division promoted by the company as a replacement of Cominco's tax base is being conducted.
While the early indications are positive concerning the tourist potential inherent in Trickle Creek it, coupled with North Star for winter recreation, could bring about the fulfilment of dreams of those who are counting at least partly on tourism for economic survival when the mine closes. There are still some serious questions that remain for many in the community even if the attempt to make Kimberley into a resort destination proves successful. The first of these is whether or not the community is simply trading reliance on one kind of single industry for another and, secondly, tourism too depends to a large extent on factors outside local control and on decisions made by others outside the community. These questions and concerns aside, there is no doubt that this is the major strategy developed, sometimes through the pursuit of local needs like skiing or more deliberately through the development of the golf course, by the community. Over time, support for the strategy on the part of residents has also grown.
It is important in examining the transformation process in this instance in the context of the wider society and world within which the community and its events are set. Kimberley, like all communities now, is integrated in a global system and although this is not highlighted in this work it provides the arena within which Cominco, the parent company of the Sullivan mine, operates. The decisions that Cominco managers make obviously relate to this globalized system. What is highlighted here is that much of the change that is identified and analyzed here is a consequence of the local perceptions that provide the interpretations of day-to-day life. These local perceptions form the basis of the responses to these wider events which have an impact on the residents of Kimberley and they in turn become part of the local culture. The responses and the interpretations upon which they are based are sometimes deliberate and come from particular individuals and groups who organize to bring about community change. In such cases, particular individuals become key to understanding the transformation process. The Bavarianization project is an example of this element of community change. A relatively few individuals, in this instance by acting upon what they perceived as a negative consequence of their changed environment, came up with a strategy to mitigate against it. To succeed, though, they needed to change the perceptions and attitudes of a significant proportion of the population. When they did so, they not only transformed the community physically through the downtown revitalization project, they laid the foundation of the general transformation from a mining community, not yet a tourist town, but not a typical mining community any more.
The importance of certain individuals in the community in changing the direction of the community can also be seen in the ski hill development, in this case, motivated not by the negative results of the external environment but a vision of, and passion for, the development of a sport. While Wormington did not have the initial success that the Bavarianization committee had, over time and with bumps along the way, the North Star skiing area became a reality. He, and those in the ski club that shared his vision, had the interests of Kimberley as part of the reasons for the changes they initiated or wished to initiate, but a more primary reason for the plans that they had was the suitability of the hill to promote and advance skiing as a recreational pursuit to a greater proportion of the population, locally and outside the community. In that process, the strategy of using tourism as an economic base in Kimberley was advanced and once again community perceptions and attitudes were changed, first more specifically with respect to the nature and function of the hill, but secondly and more generally with respect to Kimberley becoming a tourist town. In hindsight, it is easy to recognize the role these deliberate actions of certain individuals in the community play in the transformation process. What is more difficult to determine is whether or not there were others who at that time or earlier were attempting to do similar things and failed or attempting to plot different directions and failed and if so, why. Be that as it may, Kimberley is likely not unique with respect to this element of community transformation.
In the case materials though, there is also evidence of change that is deliberate and that comes from above, in this instance the municipal leaders and the institutions created by them to address community problems. The Trickle Creek golf course project is illustrative of this factor in the transformation process. It is quite clear from the data that by the time the City and the Economic Development Office was involved in developing this project the community in general and especially officials at City Hall had come a long way in embracing tourism as part of Kimberley's economic future. In fact, it had developed to the point where there was a pretty clear picture as to what was needed and how it would fit into the broader plan of creating a resort destination in Kimberley by those who were and are enthusiastic about this vision of Kimberley. What would be interesting to know is if and how the project would have been accepted by the community had it occurred in the way that it did as part of a plan by municipal leaders and without the base of the Bavarianizaion project and the direction that development on the ski hill had taken. A case study lacks the comparisons to assess this dimension of the question about the transformation process. As such, it would be useful to examine other communities in which the sequence of events and the kinds of participants would be different in order to address questions like this one.
While it is not my goal here to evaluate the success of Kimberley's transformation from a mining community and its development as a tourist town, it may be instructive to point out some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with the transition.
First, Kimberley has a geographical advantage which must be credited for some of the success that the community had in facilitating the change process. It is not a remote mining community. It is situated close to a number of other communities and relatively close to major centres of population. This is not typical for a large number of mining communities and especially mining camps that are often in places very distant from any sizeable community. This geographical advantage provides options and opportunities economically, socially and culturally that would not be available for the remote mining community. It also has a geography conducive for outdoor recreational pursuits, to say nothing of visitors who come for the sheer beauty of a mountain town.
However important these geographical factors are, they shouldn't overshadow equally important sociocultural factors. This case study shows quite clearly that both a strong sense of community attachment and a recognition on the part of the resident population that this is one of the important assets the community has. No community can take advantage of any opportunities they may have geographically or economically if they do not have a sense of commitment to the community. The data from all the sources I used indicated that Kimberley's residents see Kimberley as a good place to live, a place worth making viable in the future. Part of this comes from the long associations, the deep family, friendship and organizational ties that have created a community capable for the most part of working together. At the same time the infusion of new people in the community has not overwhelmed the pre-existing social networks but has provided for a source of new perspectives and needs and fresh ideas, all of which are resources in recreating a community over time. In addition, the external changes that have affected the community have occurred slowly enough that it hasn't suffered serious depopulation, population booms, or devastating blows to the local economy that might have negated all the other advantages it has had. In fact, ironically, there was an increase in real estate activity and housing prices during an indefinite closure of the mine in 1990.
By taking advantage of the opportunities presented in the set of circumstances in which they found themselves, the residents of Kimberley have for the most part been able to move from a community tied together by a common link to an economic pursuit, in this case mining, to a community whose basis of commonality is a lifestyle, built mainly on shared interests in outdoor recreational pursuits. And it has also used this common interest to attract outsiders, visitors and potential new residents to the community, as strategy to promote economic viability. However, lest we leave the impression that in the case of Kimberley the transition process has been entirely positive, it is important to document the challenges that the community will continue to fact in the future.
While the community has managed to survive with the winding down of Cominco operations so far, the permanent closure still has to be successfully managed. While there is a certain amount of optimism that the community and its leaders have their ducks lined up to deal with the permanent closure, it is still an uncertainty. The concern that the permanent closure raises now is more related to the impact on the tax base than on employment as it was in the past and often is in other such closures. In the case of Kimberley, Cominco operations constitute half of the City's tax base, so it is a very real concern that has to be addressed in both the short term and the long term to allow the present situation to continue. Concomitant with this concern and the manner in which it is being addressed is the decline in relative prosperity that has been occurring in the City. While this is a relative rather than absolute decline, it still will bring with it problems that will have to be addressed. It also confounds the problem of the loss of Cominco's tax base; it is not likely that Cominco's share of the City's revenue could be made up by increasing residential taxes.4 Lastly, and in the minds of many Kimberley residents most importantly, tourism as a new economic base is unlikely to provide the kinds of jobs in terms of income levels and stability that will encourage young people to stay in Kimberley or move there to establish careers, to have families and to build houses, all of which is important in ensuring Kimberley's viability economically.
These advantages and disadvantages in Kimberley's transformation aside, it is clear that the community has already undergone significant changes and these alone will bring about further changes in the future. It is shedding its old identity as a mining town and is building on an identity as a tourist town and it has all the social, economic and cultural correlates of this change in identify. It has taken advantage of opportunities that came its way and is still facing some of the challenges that has accompanied the process. The transformation process is still taking place, and may in this age of rapid and global change never be complete. However, the experience of Kimberley, as it attempt to negotiate the new identity and ensure its viability in the future, is not unique. It is this fact that justifies an examination of one community's transformation process.
1. The exceptions were the ski hill and Cominco gardens which were attractions for visitors.
2. Kimberley was, and is, overwhelmingly British. While the Bavarian theme did attract German-speaking immigrants to the town, it hasn't significantly altered the proportion of Germans in the population.
3. The fears being raised here relate to the way Banff has developed as a resort which is crowded with tourists and in which prices have decreased the ability of local people to access the facilities here.
4. In fact, in my discussion with the Mayor and Council Members, everyone has recognized that a more likely scenario is decreased services rather than increased residential taxes.
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by the Louisbourg Heritage Society
© Louisbourg Institute
Extracted from the Proceedings of the Cape Breton
in Transition Conference, October 20-21, 1995