Council discusses re-opening plan for visitors and residents

Council for the Town of Canmore host Virtual Town Hall via Zoom on May 5. Photo Marie Conboy. mari conn / jpg, BA

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Canmore Council discussed the Town’s plans to collaborate with the business community and community groups to move towards recovery, and how to manage pedestrian traffic on Main Street, in a virtual meeting held on May 5.

According to Sally Caudill, general manager of municipal services, businesses are keen to reopen but they are very concerned for their safety.

“Visitors are also concerned, the larger number of them have been staying away. We can’t just open the flood gates. There is an urgency with the re-opening on May 14 so we are looking at how we utilize downtown safety for residents and visitors. We are looking at how we do this while social distancing safely,” said Caudill.

She said many local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and as restrictions ease, they will need to expand capacity or re-open to stay afloat.

“At the same time, with loosened restrictions and warm weather, we can anticipate that those who have been staying away will be extra keen to visit our amazing community, awesome amenities, and the natural beauty that we all enjoy on a daily basis. The increase in visitors is likely to stress residents and businesses, as the more people on the streets, trails, and in our stores, the more difficult it is to follow Provincial guidelines and maintain appropriate social distancing.

“If social distancing measures are not strongly and clearly communicated and well managed, a sharp spike in visitation will stress local businesses and increase the anxiety of our residents.”

She said the reopening plan required management of physical distancing in businesses and public spaces, crowd control measures for tight spaces like Main Street, communication to residents so they know what’s happening and feel safe in their community, and education for visitors before they arrive and while here so they can be responsible and safe travelers.

“We are looking at maximizing Main Street. If we pedestrianize the whole street, that could invite more problems so we are currently looking cautiously at the pros and cons of pedestrianizing Main Street.

“We can’t go right back to full speed on day one. The international tourism industry is reckoning with the challenges created by over-tourism around the world.”

Council discussed the conflicted relationship with visitors and the tourism industry. “Tourism is clearly our primary economic driver, but we do not have a clear vision or community alignment and agreement around what this means. We enjoy the incredible restaurants and recreation amenities, but we complain about the congestion and impact on affordability. We worry about wildlife conflict and the loss of “special” places for locals, but we love the business opportunities and thriving arts
and culture opportunities.”

Tourism Canmore Kananaskis summarizes in the Strategic Plan’s Executive Summary section describing the need for change:

“There needs to be a purposeful and deliberate effort on the part of the community and businesses to find common ground and work toward a shared vision for tourism. Failure to take action and work collaboratively could result in over tourism and degradation of the core value proposition of the community. The impacts of this could include decreased quality of life for residents, negative environmental impacts and reduced viability for tourism businesses. If the region chooses to act proactively, it has an immense opportunity to become an iconic, internationally known destination and a leader in sustainable tourism development.” This speaks directly to the need to create what the international tourism industry calls a “social license to

Public Hearing submissions revised due to meetings now being held virtually. Submissions can be made in person, via zoom, or in writing by email or mail.