The residents of the Bow Valley have always welcomed our fellow Albertans into our communities and the surrounding provincial and national parks within which we live with open arms.
Our streets and roads, parks and trails have been open to visitors choosing to spend an hour, afternoon or weekend exploring this place we call home prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our businesses provide services to millions each year. Our local governments operate numerous public services for everyone – not just for residents – even though we are the ones who pay for them through property taxes.
But our communities are struggling just as much as yours are with the realities around COVID-19 and then some.
We have seen record-breaking regional visitation in this valley over the past two months and it has taken many by surprise. Without American tourists or other international travellers to the valley, the prediction was a slower summer season.
Slower is not what we have seen, however, in our downtowns, trails, parks and the roads that intersect them.
It may be a cliché to say that a few rotten apples can ruin the bunch, but nothing else seems to fit as well to describe what our valley has been putting up with as a result of the visitation levels combined with the coronavirus.
Rude and entitled customers who have no consideration or compassion whatsoever for the context within which they are doing business.
Garbage and litter strewn casually in public places and bins overflowing with waste – which also puts wildlife at risk. People using the sides of trails and parking areas as bathrooms.
Cars parked anywhere and everywhere regardless of the added risk to public safety as a result. Emergency services being blocked from responding to trailheads to help those in need.
The RCMP in Canmore this weekend had to manage the level of traffic flow on Highway 742 between the Three Sisters Parkway and the Nordic Centre due to the increased desire by many, and understandably so, to get outside and enjoy the mountains.
With respect, our communities would like to remind you that even though you are not in your own home, there are house rules that apply when you are in this valley. This is our home and we would very much appreciate it if you didn't love it to death.
When you travel into our communities, it behooves you to respect the rules in place and if you don't – find somewhere else to visit. There are plenty of options in Alberta – didn't you hear – tourism is an area of economic diversification for our economic recovery.
As of this Friday (Aug. 7), face coverings will be mandatory for indoor public settings in Canmore as well as Banff. But don't just wear your mask – do so within the guidelines of safe practices for wearing and removing it. Do so without also having a tantrum and making your problem someone else's.
And when you're done with your mask? Please don't just drop it on the ground – dispose of it properly.
Would you like to eat at a local restaurant or café? Look at the menu first and decide before you sit down if you want to order. Have some compassion for the service staff who have to disinfect everything you touch – including the table you changed your mind about after looking at the menu.
If you're a large group looking to dine out together – you can't and don't expect our local restaurants and service staff to put their lives at risk just so that you can.
Read the signage businesses have taken the time to put up to help communicate to you how best to navigate these uncharted waters together.
Kindness, understanding and patience are the balm we collectively need to apply to every social situation we find ourselves in right now. Regardless of COVID-19, kindness, compassion and etiquette are still the expectations that we have for our visitors.