Editorial – Room to grow

Whether by chance or design, Big Lakes County and its forerunner, the Improvement District #17, is an owner of nice lakeshore property along Lesser Slave Lake.

A simple housing lot on this lake can run anywhere from $200,000 and upwards, depending where it is.

Step back a bit from the water’s edge and prices drop dramatically. It just depends which community or piece of bush you look at. Prices at Faust are less than prices at Joussard. Prices at Joussard are less than at Hilliard’s Bay Estates.

Land prices have soared. Still, the Great Recession of 2008-10, then oil’s price slump starting in 2014 didn’t help. Price gains of the past three decades aren’t likely to happen again soon. But consider, a property that once sold for $5,000 30 years ago and might now be worth $100,000 has actually only gone up maybe 12 per cent per year average. The $100,000 sounds like a lot of money, but that’s many, many years gone by.

Aerial view of the Sylvan Lake Wild Rapids water slide and site – Photo by Bert Bessier / Calgary Herald

Still, by almost all measures, except perhaps investments in Microsoft or Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, there are few places with steady returns like that over so many years. Not to mention, the value of having recreation or living property.

The story of calling our lake lands “cottage country” isn’t told enough when it comes to our local lands around Lesser Slave Lake. Maybe it’s just that old “familiarity breeds contempt” coming back to haunt us. We don’t realize what we have, because we sit right on top of it.

Just recently, the Town of Sylvan Lake in central Alberta bought a not-so-big property close to the middle of town. For those who don’t know the town, it sits on the south edge of Sylvan Lake. The highway through town runs right along the lake for the most part. Then “cottage country” homes begin, wrapping around most of the lake. The property bought was the old Wild Rapids waterslide land, building, and the parking lot. Price was reported to be just under $5 million. That’s a large, but not impossible, investment for a town of 15,000. It’s like High Prairie spending almost one million on land like the old hospital site.

Sylvan Lake already has a fair stretch of provincial park public beach right in town. It’s almost like Spruce Point Park on Lesser Slave, without the campsites. Time will tell if the waterslide land purchase is a good idea. It very likely is not just a good idea, but a great idea.

There’s a lesson here: There aren’t many communities in Alberta like Sylvan Lake. Big Lakes County councillors should keep their eyes open, always, for similar opportunities. Private enterprise and community groups have contributed greatly to development on Lesser Slave Lake. There should always be room for public ownership of recreation lands, too.

There is no guarantee today’s great public use, camping sites or lakefront access sites, will be public use tomorrow. But there will always be more people coming for a day, a weekend, or for a week or two or more, for holidays or to make a life, from everywhere, if there is room, access and space.


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