Editor: Thank you for your editorial of May 9, “Time to learn from past mistakes.” It needed to be said.
Wapiti Tents was indeed a municipal campground, yet so much more.
Wapiti developed organically into a seasonal gathering of the tribes, a mountain Mecca, a temporary autonomous community in the most ancient sense of the word, a safe harbour for the weary traveller, and also a place for new beginnings.
Wapiti was music, poetry and art, everywhere, all the time. Our community ethic was one of radical autonomy, sweetness and mutual aid.
Wapiti could not have existed without the nurturing and helping hands of so many well meaning Canmorites.
But Wapiti also gave back. However anarchic, Wapiti Tents ran a successful weekly free dinner put on by campers themselves, a free bicycle program and a community cupboard long before Canmore proper did.
Some facts. The Province owns the land and the lease comes at a cost to local tax-payers of $1 per year. One dollar.
The campground trail system and sites were built by Katimavik and local volunteers. Cost to tax-payers: lunch.
The original campground shelter (The Quonset) was donated by the film crew of Mystery Alaska.
Despite persistent rumours, Wapiti had no particular enforcement issues according to statements from Bylaw Services and RCMP.
Wapiti had a General Assembly for community decision making. The campground offered free camping to Folk Fest volunteers.
In its final year of operation, 2008, Wapiti Tents had a council mandated expense line of $60,000. By season close 2008, it had generated a revenue line of over $80,000.
K-Country Campgrounds has operated Wapiti for profit, rent free on provincial land since 2009. Monthly rent for a single occupant jumped from $360 in 2008 to $750 in 2009.
I appreciate very much the Editors worthy sentiment “bring back Wapiti Tents.” Those of us who were there, in that place and time know all to well that what was lost.
There is no going back however, there is only forward. This towns needs a municipal campground that works and soon.
Canmore didn’t kill Wapiti Tents, a cynical few did. Canmore can make this right.