Our little temporary town is about the same size as Clarenville. About 2000 more people call Rocky Mountain House home, but it’s also the service centre for a host of rural communities. This is where the central arena and recreation facilities are (it’s where Kurt Browning learned to skate!); where people come to shop for groceries. There’s a Sears outlet, a volunteer fire department, a community newspaper (in which this week’s headline reads “Organized crime is here”, but whose pages are filled with Municipal Plan overviews and dog attacks), and all the same fast-food joints you’d find anywhere. Real estate prices are comparable, with a 3 to 4 bedroom detached home going for a little over $200,000. The mayor is even named Fred. Rocky is also from where David Thompson launched his mountain expeditions, so Cormack would find a kindred explorer spirit here.
However, for all it’s similarities, Rocky has a shine that Clarenville doesn’t. Let’s call it the Oil Factor. There’s about a dozen more traffic lights, for example. The public swimming pool is nicer than ones I’ve seen in cities of a million people. There’s a bakery that opens at 6 a.m. The library is beautiful. There’s a Main Street with cobbled sidewalks and historical notice boards. Playgrounds abound. There’s even an outdoor speed skating oval! We’re looking forward to the Festival of Culture this Saturday, immediately following the weekly Farmer’s Market. The sidewalks on every street (even the non-residential ones) are kept free of snow and ice (oh wait, it’s St. John’s where that’s unheard of). The light poles are decorated with coloured iron silhouettes of Western scenes (if Sylvia wasn’t sleeping I’d run out and get a picture right now).
But for all the wonderful public amenities, child care and family doctors are still notoriously hard to come by, according to chatter in the barber shop and at play group.
Clarenville does beat Rocky in a few areas though. The Clarenville Nordic ski club blows Rocky’s 6 km of groomed trails out of the water. (I can’t compare downhill slopes, what with Banff a mere 2-hour drive away). And…. actually, I can’t think of another. I was going to mention fine-dining, but Kildare recently shut it’s doors, and I had a delicious meal at the Greek restaurant down the street here last week, so there you go.
Rocky seems to have kept abreast of the times, upgrading facilities (the swimming pool underwent a major expansion in the past 5 years) as oil royalties flow in. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I’m thinking about the Hebron development and the business boom predicted for Clarenville this spring, and how at-ease and welcomed I feel here in Rocky. I guess what I’m trying to say is, municipalities truly can reap benefits from industry and still keep their small-town vibe.