Editorial – Spreading “secrets” still an uphill battle

Jeff Burgar

Last week and the week before, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee wrote in her regular column in our local newspapers. She talked about what she called “Alberta’s Best Kept Secret.”

Long-time residents will recall Larivee’s forerunner as MLA, Pearl Calahasen. She would refer to the same territory as “The Jewel of the North.”

We are now three decades into both Calahasen’s and Larivee’s running the helm, as it were, in promoting tourism in the north. Most of that time was Calahasen’s. Despite the hard-working efforts of both people, and hundreds, if not thousands of others, pretty well everything north of Edmonton remains a “Best Kept Secret.”

“North of Edmonton” is a huge amount of Alberta territory. The geographic centre of Alberta is actually just southeast of Swan Hills. Edmonton itself is not in northern Alberta. It is in central Alberta. The upshot of this is, over half of Alberta – half – is a “secret” as far as most tourists in Edmonton and points south are concerned.

Heading north from Edmonton, it’s common knowledge most tourism in the Lesser Slave Lake region hails from the Peace River Country. Edmontonians find Pigeon Lake, Lac St. Anne, Lac La Nonne and Wabamun Lake and others more to their liking. Plus, of course, the almost mandatory summer holiday in British Columbia.

For some reason, hordes of flies along the B.C. Sunshine Coast, interminable lineups at campsites, packed winery tastings, endless rocks and jammed parks are all much to be enjoyed by city slickers who really don’t know much better.

And, there are the campfire bans. One might enjoy a summer hike when the sun is shining, or just lazing around the Shushwap. The trade off is having to crank up a propane barbecue or ordering KFC. Then chatting the evening away around an empty firepit. Such cannot compare to the friendliness of sipping a beverage, roasting some smores, and tossing another log on the fire. Given a choice, most people will take the summer showers of northern Alberta if they can enjoy campfires.

Every year, campgrounds around Lesser Slave Lake grow. Every year, more people take in Northern Alberta. In her columns, Larivee commented on Alberta Minister of Culture and Tourism Ricardo Miranda having his eyes opened when he recently visited the area around Slave Lake. We hope he will return, this time to the west basin, to Kinuso, Faust, Driftpile, Sucker Creek, Grouard and Hilliard’s Bay. There is so much to see.

There is so much that can be developed and enjoyed, at the same time so much wilderness, culture, tradition and history to be preserved for future generations. The possibilities are endless. It’s just sad that year after year, more new faces have to be introduced to the same “Best Kept Secret.”


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