EDITORIAL: "Growing" our city from the ground up
We often hear about exactly why and how Rossland should or should not “grow”. Perhaps where some camps diverge from one another is on just what growth means.
Does growing Rossland purely mean an increase in population? Geographical area? Economic wealth? Sustainability? Or perhaps ‘growth’ also means growing wiser, doing things smarter, growing our human capital as much or more so than our economic capital. And perhaps growing the quality of life in town can be the route towards the other more quantitative results we seek? Perhaps all of these things are interlinked in some fashion and perhaps they may all be interdependent on one another.
Rossland–DIY and volunteer spirit in hand–has a long history of taking its history and future into its own hands when challenges arrive. As a city, Rossland has always had a survivor mentality that has served us well. When there’s a problem to be solved, there’s almost always been a helping hand, another person with tools, other with muscle power and all contributing brain power until a positive outcome is achieved.
In thinking about the ongoing recreation issue and the stalemate that is Rossland/Trail relations I kept coming back to other stories I’ve heard and/or written about when Rossland’s volunteer/DIY attitude saved the day. Let’s think of the Rossland Arena, for example. No, I’m not thinking about the groundswell of public support that followed a series of Telegraph articles that ultimately helped cause council to reverse their decision. Rather, I’m looking back to the arena’s origins.
Half a century ago, Rossland was in need of an indoor arena (much like we’re currently in need of an indoor place to swim that doesn’t financially punish us for being Rosslanders), there wasn’t enough money about, and lo and behold, although it took several years to be completed the community came together. Through volunteers and donations, a hockey arena was built that still serves us in its newly refurbished state.
When I look at the Rossland Skateboarding Association, I see a very similar spirit to those early rink-building days. Here’s a group that continues to grow in popularity and wants to further grow its sport with the addition of a top notch, half million dollar facility. Knowing there isn’t enough public cash out there to get a skate park built, they plan to raise the money themselves, tackle the issues themselves and build their own park.
Thinking out loud, when’s the last time a soccer team built its own field? A hockey team built their own rink or a baseball team put together their own diamond? I’m sure it’s happened but the point is, we’re a city that has lost equal access to a number of nearby recreational facilities, so when we have a group offering to build their own facility in our community we should be getting behind the effort, digging deep into our Golden City spirit and saying, ‘how can I help?’
Much like the frolfing crowd that built and then rebuilt their own facility at no cost to the city, the RSA is a group saying, ‘we want to make life here more fun for kids, more attractive to families and we will pay for it; just give us a place to put the thing’.
Add to this list the new Rouge Gallery in the BMO building. Here is another recent case of an interest group in town starting on their own steam a new facility to promote themselves, grow the art scene in Rossland, and–again–ultimately boost our city’s economic situation.
As a city, we’re looking for opportunities to grow our economy, increase our population, increase our density, attract new taxpayers to town and boost our sustainability. In the case of the RSA, the Frolf society, and the Rouge Gallery, these are groups bringing real life ideas to the table, ready to pay for and build them themselves.
These facilities do attract new families that pay taxes, buy new infill housing, shop at our stores, become patrons of our businesses, go to our schools and generally help us achieve the same goals our city council and staff wrestle with year in and year out.
With all of the various proposed plans for growing Rossland’s economy there is an element of risk involved. Ideas may or may not work; they may take a lot of funds and energy. In the case of the RSA, here is one small piece of the growing-Rossland’s-economy puzzle that, even if it fails in that regard, still leaves us with a new recreational facility built for the city by the users of the facility.
Sounds like a pretty good risk, no? It’s a prescription in which the side-affects are an even nice place to live. Maybe where we should be focusing more of our energy and dollars as a city is towards projects that start the economic growth curve from the ground up. Maybe we should invest more and support in even greater ways the things in a community that make life great.
Things like art galleries, recreational facilities, heritage and culture, trails, and so forth are what people write home about, what they tell their friends about when talking about this great place they live. It’s people’s experiences and memories that add to a complete life.
When was the last time anyone wrote a letter home to their family saying, ‘I love this place! The tax rates are so low and they have tons of awesome plans and the bylaws are tight!’?
Sure it probably has happened, but the point is, people move to new places, stay in new places, raise families in places and pay taxes in places that are great places to live. This has largely been Rossland’s salvation over the years; it allowed our city to survive following the collapse of its major industry so many years ago. It could also be the route forward on the next growth phase.
There are two ways to sell a product. You can spend money telling people how great it is, or you can put your energy into making the product so great that people can’t say no to it. Folks like the Frolf Society, Rouge Gallery the Rossland Skateboarding Association and many other groups in town are working hard on the latter approach, consciously or not.
Even if you’re not a skater, there generally are spinoff benefits for everyone else in town from these types of projects, and they add up.
If these groups are willing to bring all of this to town and aren’t asking me to spend a dime to make it happen, I’m all for it. We can all learn something from their examples.