Friday, July 13, 1979 was a dark day for the town of Canmore.
After a century of coal mining in the community, providing the economic foundation for the those who lived in Canmore or owned a business, suddenly this way of life was no more.
It was in many ways unsurprising that the Canmore Coal Mines Ltd. decided to withdraw from extracting the coal from the earth in these mountains. The companies that had successively owned the operations prior to its closure, were struggling.
From new environmental regulations, to the price of coal on the market, and competition from other coal mines in Australia – it was a death by a thousand cuts by the time it was all over.
Mining coal in the Rocky Mountains was not straightforward either. Literally, the seams of coal were pushed up and twisted as the mountains that make this valley were formed over time.
Four decades later, and the heritage of coal mining in the community remains strong and relevant. From the buildings that remain from a time past, to the community that was forged during the era of mining in the community.
Canmore may have grown significantly since 1979, and while that comes with pressures on the landscape and more traffic and issues, it has also meant more connections and neighbours to share a love of place with.
Because people, for the most part, do not end up in Canmore by accident. The people who call this place home, who create community through connections with each other, have overwhelmingly chosen to be here. They have made the decision to call this valley home, or to continue to live here even though the struggle to do so is real.
Canmore’s growth has meant it is harder and harder for many to keep calling this place home. From the cost of living – gas and grocery prices – to the cost of real estate or rents being on par with urban centres like Vancouver or Toronto. For a small town of 14,000 permanent residents to face such daunting challenges would be overwhelming for some. But for a community that was forged around coal mines and hard work, many have stayed and rallied to keep.
Because while things have changed, they have also remained the same. Canmore may be bigger, but it is still full of those with shared values about what being here means. When our friends and neighbour struggle, we support them when times are tough. Instead of bake sales and helping build houses, it might be through fundraisers and online efforts – but the social support remains strong.
Some sacrifice to stay here, others have chosen to leave and pursue their goals in locations that have greater affordability, but perhaps less amenities and vistas that inspire awe and adventure.
Whether you are new to Canmore, or a multi-generational resident – this community holds you near and dear to its heart. Whether you lived here once and moved away, or chose to stay and make it work – this community is grateful for your time here.
Whether you owned a business, volunteered, or you only spent a summer season in the valley – you are connected to this place forever. Because while the names and faces may change over time, what connects us all remains the same – community.
As we perhaps look forward to the next 40 years for Canmore, this may never change, and we hope it doesn’t. It is this rich social fabric that stretches back in time and ahead of us into the future that makes this valley a truly spectacular place to call home. The mountains may have called us here, but it is the friends, neighbours and family we create while we live here that sustains us and anchors us into this place over time.
The mines may have closed 40 years ago, but the hearts and welcoming embrace of what Canmore was and has always been, remains as strong as ever. Canmore’s strength is its people and that will never change.