Sunday, June 26, 2011

Looking for the Soul of Smithers BC

Just returned yesterday, from a series of Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia (REFBC) strategic planning sessions held in the northern British Columbian city of Smithers B.C.  While there, before and after the meetings I explored Smithers, on foot, looking for the differences between Smithers and cities like Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope and Harrison Hot Springs. Would I find Smithers a more complete, a more alive, for lack of a better word let's call it a more soulful place to live.  I went looking for the Soul of Smithers BC.

Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers BC

Smithers is like an island surrounded by a sea of mountains and  foam of trees. Hudson Bay Mountain towers above all, its white caps remote, serene and beautiful. Lower down, ski runs have been carved. This is a community that embraces and thrives on winter.

I met a lot of people from Chilliwack and Agassiz while I was there.  It is easy to pick out the strangers and a friendly enough question to ask is "where are you from"?  It gave me a chance to talk about common friends like Earla Legualt and Ken Schwaerzle and to promise to send along regards.

Just like Vancouver, Smithers has a dedicated view towards wilderness and parks with extensive trail circling most of the city.  Unlike the large block of land that forms Vancouver's Stanley Park, Smithers offers an extensive trail system which almost encircles the entire town.  I spent a number of hours walking through wetlands (mosquitoes apparently like me), along the Bulkley River and into deep aspen forests. These places helped me still my thoughts and bring me back in touch with the natural world. The preservation of these places demonstrates something great and unexpected in a small town...soul.

Smithers like Chilliwack has a Main Street called Main Street.  Wide brick sidewalks and an imported Bavarian Alpine style greet the visitors in a neat and tidy and just likable way.

Someday, I am hoping to see one of our smaller BC communities develop a "unique to the BC area" set of architectural guidelines that, in this case, would say "Smithers" and no where else in the world.  Okay, that is just my wish; I realize a lot of people like the friendly atmosphere that a European Village scene suggests.

Main Street, Smithers, BC,

The housing, in contrast, was very exciting especially this one block.

From the grace of a North American Arts and Crafts house...

to a Leed Platinum Net-Zero Modern residence....

in just a few steps; amazing range in such a small town.

I was interested in the cultural life and found a strong presence in this community from a Tuesday open mike night at the Blue Fin Sushi Bar, music festivals to the farmers market there were plenty of linkages for people to meet and greet one another. I bought some tickets in support of the Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society and a chance to win a Rayco Acoustic Guitar worth $3,200.

One story I heard from former REFBC Governor Charlie Northrup was that the residents of Smithers had successful rebuked the Canada Post suggestion of the installation of super-boxes.  Residents in Smithers want pick up their mail at one common post office and, hopefully, bump into a neighbour or two. Recognition that a community's strength requires such face to face encounters to keep it alive.

It was a short stay, productive meetings and a wonderful glimpse into the heart of a fine community.  I am looking forward to a return trip someday soon I hope.

A part two will follow in the coming days about what is perhaps the most soulful corner in Smithers.

All pictures and content copyright © to Stephen Mullock.

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

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