“Play, live and retire here.”
“Your life can find a place to enjoy itself.”
“A place for your business and your home.”
“Stewardship comes with ownership.”
Those are just a few of the advertising slogans developers are employing in effort to sell properties in North American mountain communities, said Linda Kruger, guest speaker at the Understanding and Managing Amenity-led Migration in Mountain Regions conference, which took place at the Banff Centre last week. Running from May 15 thru 19, the conference drew more than 70 delegates from Canada, the U.S., Europe, Argentina and Malaysia.
A research social scientist with the United States Forest Service based in Juneau Alaska, Kruger shared a presentation on Friday, May 16 that focused on affinity to place, serious leisure and community resilience in so-called “amenity communities.”
Accompanying the “mountain living” dream, Kruger said, for every new home constructed, for every property sold to every smiling new homeowner — and equally satisfied realtor — comes the reality of challenges and problems for the already existing community where the phenomenon of amenity migration is taking place.
“The issue of amenity migration is profoundly complex,” Kruger said. “It can lead to wicked problems that can’t be easily resolved with simple solutions.”
Among those problems is the reality that long-term residents of an established community often find themselves being forced to adjust to what many of them perceive as an invasion of newcomers whose vision of mountain living differs greatly from their own.
“Long-term residents often perceive those migrants as invaders,” Kruger said. “And at the same time, those long-term residents often feel excluded from the community.”
This is particularly evident when there is a great difference in the material wealth of the migrants compared to that of less affluent residents whose choice to make that community their home was based on a very different set of desires, circumstances and even values.
In many cases, the municipality’s planners and decision makers are in effect held hostage by developers, leaving them to implement policies that are reactionary rather than proactive, Kruger said. The key is to encourage both long-term residents and newcomers to become involved in community visioning strategies.
“Canmore is not alone where developers have taken control,” Kruger said. “I think as many people in the community as possible need to be proactive and engaged in focusing sessions. It’s hard work, but I think it can be done. The town needs to find ways to coalesce people to take their community back.”