Tumbler Ridge is taking it to the top

Trent Ernst, Editor

At the most recent Union of BC Municipalities meeting held down in Vancouver, staff and Council members from the District of Tumbler Ridge were fortunate to have a meeting with Premier Christy Clark.

EDO Jordan Wall says that the premier requested the meeting specifically, about a week before the event.

Wall says he believes the meeting comes about as a direct result of the work the District has been doing over the last few years, from the sustainability plan to strategic plan, to meetings with provincial government officials last fall to outline the Made in Tumbler Ridge plan for economic recovery.

“It’s also a result of the Geopark event in Tumbler Ridge earlier this summer,” says Wall. While the premier wasn’t able to attend that event, Minister Shirley Bond was, and, says MLA Mike Bernier, she has not stopped talking about the event.

“This was an opportunity to talk to the Premier, as well as MLA Bernier, and Ministers Bond and Bennett, about the Made in TR solution that council has been working with province on,” says Wall. “We focused on three things. The first is the expansion of the Community Forest. The current Community Forest is too small to operate sustainably, and it will have to shut down in future if it stays the same size. Expansion is necessary for future growth of forestry in Tumbler Ridge.”

Secondly, says Wall, the District asked about getting the last section of Highway 52 paved. This is something the District is working on with the Regional District. “The focus for us is to develop a circle tourism route to pull Americans off the Alaska Highway and bring in Albertans,” says Wall.

Finally, the District talked about the Geopark and Museum, asking if the Province would support the project by funding the scientific research. “This would allow us to focus funding on building the region as a solid  tourism destination,” says Wall.

Mayor Don McPherson was at the meeting. He says the representatives from the town were well received by the Premier and cabinet ministers. “Tumbler Ridge has impressed them with our approach,” he says. “The Premier told me that she wished every town adopted the same approach.”

In fact, says McPherson, they have been asked to go talk to other communities about how Tumbler Ridge is making this work.

While the District focused on the three key needs, says the Mayor, the ministers brought up topics that TR needs help on as well. “Minister Bond knows about Tumbler Ridge because of the Geopark, Minister Bennett because of the wind power announcement earlier this year and MLA Bernier because he’s been involved with us at every step in the way. They’re really impressed with what TR has done with volunteers, and they acknowledged that they need to pick up the ball.”

What form that might take, though, is still up for debate. While the Premier had some suggestions as to how the District could address some of these problems, the District was invited back to speak to the Province later. “There’s not anything that can be talked about now,” says the Mayor, “but she invited us to come back and talk to ministers sometime in the fall session and hope to have answer by then.”

The Mayor says he invited the Premier to come up to Tumbler Ridge, “so we could show her around like we did with Minister Bond. And Minister Bond was there saying what a good idea that was,” says the Mayor.

“No promises, but she said she’d like to.”

Even more surprisingly, says the Mayor, was the fact that the Premier referenced Tumbler Ridge three times in her closing remarks. “The difference between this UBCM and previous UBCM is this time, it came from the top. That’s a big difference.”

Wall cautions that, despite the good reception, these things take time. “We wish we could have had the results already, but our process has led us to a place where we’ll have the greatest chance of success,” he says.