An under-appreciated city for a reason
Perceptions by Gerry Warner
Ouch! That hurt. Of course it hurts when one of the world’s biggest and most respected travel guide books disses your home town as Lonely Planet did recently. And it’s not the first time that a travel publication or travel writer has done the same.
But we who live here and know our town much more intimately than any travel writer know a much different city than you see from a quick cruise down The Strip.
We know what it’s like to see the Alpen glow fading on the Rockies on a warm summer evening, the larch trees flaming like gold every autumn, hillsides covered with yellow sunflowers every spring and the crunch of fresh snow on a winter’s tramp through the community forest. We have one of the best four-seasons climates you could find anywhere on the planet and more hours of sunshine than any city in BC,
But if you never get off the Strip you’re not going to know this, are you?
Along with the bracing climate, we offer a small town life style that’s great for raising a family, starting a business or owning an affordable home. Our children enjoy a great public school system and when they graduate they can attend a community college that’s rated number one in the world – that’s right in the world – for student satisfaction. But you wouldn’t know this if you see nothing but the Strip.
And should you fall ill while visiting our fine town, you have a major regional referral hospital with numerous specialists a six-bed ICU and a fully equipped emergency department that operates 24/7. And if you feel like entertaining yourself while you’re here, we have one of the best railway museums in all of Canada, a rustic heritage village just a few minutes from town, a 500-seat community theatre that’s hosted the likes of Bob Dylan and Kenny Rogers and a recreation complex that’s home to the Memorial Cup Champions Kootenay Ice. And if the Great Outdoors is your thing, our fair town lies smack in the middle of the Rocky Mountain Trench that’s been called the “Serengeti of North America.”
Not bad for a “dusty crossroads” or a “depressingly work-a-day town,” don’t you think? And what do these effete travel writers have against a town where people can find a job and are proud to work?
But hey, we’re not perfect. There’s a reason for all those negative travel reviews. Let’s be honest. If there’s one thing that Cranbrook has lacked over the years it’s what can best be described as “the vision thing.” Urban planning has never been our strong suit. Oh sure, we’ve had a City planning department over the years, but when push comes to shove, the planners get over-ruled by the politicians and our urban development has always been along the lines of where the land is the cheapest and the quickest profits could be made. That’s why most of the development has been on the Strip the past 30 years and the downtown has faded.
So when a travel writer comes to town they never get off the Strip and the result is another article panning our city. It’s annoying, but not entirely unfair because this is the kind of town we’ve allowed it to be.
And it continues to this day with the finest heritage building left downtown – the 1929 Fire Hall – currently for sale by the City to the highest bidder despite the efforts of a local activist group who raised thousands to convert it into a gallery and art centre that would have given those nasty travel writers a reason to get off the Strip and go town town along with our local citizens.
That’s the vision thing. Sadly, Cranbrook still doesn’t have it.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and former City councillor