When I strike up a conversation to relative newcomers to the Creston Valley and they learn we have lived in Creston for nigh on 38 years the inevitable comment is, “You must have seen a lot of changes in that time.” Somewhat tongue in cheek, my usual reply has been, “Not as many as I would have liked.”
I’m going to have to find another line, because this community seems bursting with life on so many fronts that I often feel overwhelmed with gratitude. In recent weeks one of my routines has been to wander up Canyon Street to sneak a peak at the progress Ralph Casemore and his team are making on the old Kootenay Hotel, soon to be known as Casey’s Community House. It is getting easier by the day to get a picture of what a dramatic change that red brick and grey granite is going to make in our downtown core.
Not much further up the street, Jimmy Karountzos is making steady inroads on what used to be known as the Ingham Centre. I’ve had chats and tours to see the progress on what will become the Valley’s largest liquor store, and the plan to mirror the Creston Hotel’s look ensures that this new building, too, will be a gem.
Behind the walled-in front of the old Snipper’s building, construction on new public washrooms continues in another project that Casemore and Tanya Wall have taken on.
If I take a right turn out of the Advance office, in only a couple of minutes I am at Kunze Gallery, a spectacular addition to our community. And owner Ray Gauthier has been working all summer to clean out the red elevator in the hope that it can somehow be put to use. Kitty corner from the elevators, a For Sale sign has gone up on the muffler shop and long-time Shell service station, opening another opportunity for development at a key location.
Up at Town Hall, where staff and council maintain steady pressure on the provincial government to get the Cook Street bypass done, there sits a set of designs for a Market Park, to be located where the Farmers’ Market now sits, and extending eastward toward Extra Foods. It would be a marvelous use of property that will eventually abut Highway 3 along Cook Street.
Backtracking a bit and heading up 11th Avenue, the steadily expanding Kootenay Employment Services operation hums with activity. It has done a remarkable job with Fields Forward, where Paris Marshall-Smith and her team are working diligently to find ways of putting agricultural land to best use, and to encourage young people to go into farming. With a fantastic track record of engaging the public in the Town’s Official Community Plan process, KES is now poised to take on other community economic development functions, having recently been awarded a significant provincial grant.
Less visible is the vibrant art scene that seems to be keeping pace with the agricultural community. In the past few weeks I have been privileged to relate the story of how a trio of brilliant local minds—Sandy Kunze, Stewart Steinhauer and Bruce McFarlane—teamed up to bring major art creations to the Calgary International Airport’s new terminal. It’s a wonderful story and one that helps put the Creston Valley on a map we wouldn’t have dare dreamed to be part of only a few years ago.
In recent months we have been treated to some amazing local music, including a fundraising concert for Trails for Creston Valley Society (another great boon for our community), where veterans Mark Koenig, Carl Sommerfeld and Amanda Anderson (and hasn’t it been a treat to have her back among us this year!) teamed up, and then introduced the brilliant young Victoria Tilling to the audience. And only last week, another grown-up Creston prodigy, Velle Huscroft Weitman, took the stage in a nearly full Prince Charles Auditorium to play songs from her stunning new CD.
I have recently taken to describing the Creston Valley as a place that is humming on all cylinders. Unprecedented co-operation among Town and RDCK politicians, the emergence of new talent, newly energized veterans, and creative ideas and actions coming from all angles are heartening, to say the least.
When I look back, I think that much of what we are experiencing here today can be traced back to the referendum that approved construction of an aquatic centre and a complete upgrade for the Community Complex. When residents stepped into the polling booth and checked Yes in favour of borrowing for that project we took a huge leap as a dynamic and forward-thinking place to live. Full credit to those who worked so hard to foster that change.
I have never felt more optimistic about a community I have loved for all these many years.