(First published August 2004)
This summary might stimulate interest in developing Bragg Creek as a sustainable tourism destination. Sustainable tourism means maintaining the culture and character of the region, the environment and the life support systems that meet the needs of visitors and the community while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future.
Bragg Creek is a small community with a dual identity. It is a residential community of people who work in Calgary. It is also a tourist destination, popular as a day trip for Calgarians. It is very busy in the summer and dead in the winter. Our challenge is to increase visitation during the winter months. Bragg Creek is a popular destination as a “Gateway to Kananaskis”. It is 30 minutes from Calgary and is nestled in forested foothills on the front range of the Rocky Mountains.
Tourism adds value to our lives providing activities and facilities for residents and visitors. It also provides jobs and business opportunities for people who want to live and work here.
Bragg Creek was the site of the first Youth Hostel in Canada.
We have two access points into Kananaskis; the Elbow River Valley and the West Bragg Creek Day Use area. You can get information about these areas on braggcreek.ca and on the Kananaskis web site.
Our most active outdoor adventure company is Inside Out Experience (a rafting adventure company). That company led a group to form the Elbow Valley Outdoor Consortium a few years ago. That was a partnership with M & M Ranch (an equestrian trail riding operation), Bragg Creek Outfitters (a now defunct mountain bike tour company), Elbow Valley Campgrounds and Wintergreen Family Resort. The group failed to gel, but the concept was good. They wanted to encourage people to visit the Elbow Valley district of Kananaskis while participating in outdoor adventure activities. They planned a referal service for booking activities, accommodation and entertainment.
Wintergreen closed their ski hill for the 2003-2004 season, citing a lack of snow, short season and low usage as the reasons. They continue to operate a golf course. They have an attractive clubhouse with a number of facilities for exercise, dining and meetings. Wintergreen has trails for horse riding, skiing and cycling. They have all the infrastructure to accommodate outdoor adventures both on their property and as a meeting point. There are two other golf clubs in the area – Redwood Meadows and Priddis Greens. There are a number of equestrian operations in the area. A project is planned to develop a skateboard/dirt track cycling park. We have an excellent children’s playground and auditorium/exhibit hall at the Bragg Creek Centre. There is some interest in developing a tourist information centre here and improving highway signage.
Besides Wintergreen, other facilities that aspire to host conferences, events and groups of outdoor adventure enthusiasts in the area include:
– the Bragg Creek Centre
– Senior’s Lodge
– Camp Horizon
– Homeplace Ranch
– Kamp Kiwanis
There are two profiles that we can use to develop our tourism. We could develop a western, cowboy theme or we could develop the outdoor adventure theme. We would be competing with Cochrane, Black Diamond and others for the western theme. We would compete with Canmore for the outdoor adventure crowd.
We have several events that are held in the area. The Trans Rockies mountain bike race stops here as the riders race from Fernie to Canmore. The Banded Peak Challenge is a bike/hike to the summit of Banded Peak. Bow Cycle operates a mountain bike race in the Elbow Valley. The Moose Mountain Marathon is a foot race. Bragg Creek Days is a popular summer festival. It features a 10 km foot race. The Tsuu T’ina nation hold a Rodeo and Pow Wow. The road from Calgary is a popular bicycle route for road racers. Maclean Creek is a popular off-highway vehicle playground.
Our tourism development partners are Travel Alberta, Tourism Calgary, the Business Development Centre West, and Rocky View County (economic development). The Bragg Creek Chamber of Commerce can provide additional resources.
We can promote ourselves through Travel Alberta, Foothills Country Visitor’s Guide (Okotoks Western Wheel), Explore Kananaskis (Friends of Kananaskis), Rocky View Tourism Partners, the Cowboy Trail Association and Where Magazine.
The principal barrier to sustainability of our tourism industry is the lack of overnight accommodation. People have to be able to stay in the area in order to participate in these activities. We only have a few Bed & Breakfasts to accommodate people. Elbow Valley Campgrounds offers hundreds of campsites in the Elbow Valley of Kananaskis. We have an excellent selection of restaurants and some interesting stores. We need permanent tourist attractions here. A museum of history would be a valuable asset. Attractions in the area include, Calaway Park, an amusement centre with rides, Butterfied Acres, a farm attraction and Millarville market.