Trent Ernst. Editor
There’s an interesting split that happens in spring. You’ll notice it driving about town, or on the road to Dawson or Chetwynd.
It is simply this: on the south sides of the street or road, winter still holds sway. On some people’s lawn’s on Fellers, there are still drifts of snow that stand at least five feet high.
Yes, they’ve shrunk noticeably from the six and a half feet they were a month ago, but compared that to the north side of the street, where the drifts are gone and the grass is already starting to take on a faint green-ish tinge.
It’s as if the very town itself was suffering from a split personality. One side holding on to winter, the other, reaching out for summer.
In truth, it is neither winter nor summer, but the no-man’s land of spring the town occupies. Or sometimes it is both, blazing hot sun followed by cold winds and a squall of snow.
The inevitable progress of the seasons will, someday (please) lead to summer again, but for Tumbler Ridge itself, it feels like we may be trapped in this no-mans land for longer.
April 15 marks one year since Walter Energy made the painful and abrupt decision to idle its Canadian Operations. At the time, talk was of it being closed for a year, a year and a half, maybe two at the outset.
Yet here a year has come and gone and still no sign of the prices improving. While there has been rumour of one of Walter’s mines, Brule, restarting, that has proven to be nothing more than idle chatter.
And the mood on the street? Is a lot like the weather. Some people hold on to winter: the mines are gone and may never come back. Others hold out for summer: soon the mines will re-open, and the streets of town will run black and gold.
But the longer this goes on, the harder it is to hold on to any sense of optimism.
That is, if the only potential you see for the town is in open pit mining. Once you start to look around, things do start to seem a little rosier.
HD should hit coal in the next few months, which means they could be done their bulk sample by sometime next year. While they seem to be moving at a glacial pace, there’s a chance that, this time next year, we will know much clearer the fate of that mine.
And then there’s wind power. In the next few months, the Meikle Wind Project will start construction. While most of the jobs for Tumbler Ridge residents will last a year, possibly two, for many people that might bridge the gap, offering them a chance to work and make money and survive here in Tumbler Ridge until the next thing big project comes along.
And lets not forget that whole Geopark thing. Yes, it probably won’t be an obvious source of employment for people whose work history involves driving trucks the size of small bungalows, but its hard to deny that it is a positive for the town itself.
Looking back at the last year, very few people would call it a good year for the town, but neither has it been completely awful. Compared to the evisceration of the town 15 years ago, it’s been a bit of a cake walk. That is faint hope for the people who lost their jobs and are still struggling to find gainful employment, are struggling to provide for their families, but it is at least a straw to grasp onto.
As this metaphorical spring moves into its second year for many, its tough to remain positive. It’s tough to believe that summer is coming, that better days are just a few weeks, or months off, but to quote that great poet Axl Rose, “ Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rains.” Wrong season, right idea.