Sunday March 20, 2016

Crowsnest Pass: a microcosm of Alberta, where you can still see the past

Chris Matthews, Executive Director of the Crowsnest Museum, speaks with the 180's Kathryn Marlow outside the old Holy Ghost Catholic Church. Matthews is part of a group leading a tour of empty buildings on April 16, 2016.

Chris Matthews, Executive Director of the Crowsnest Museum, speaks with the 180's Kathryn Marlow outside the old Holy Ghost Catholic Church. Matthews is part of a group leading a tour of empty buildings on April 16, 2016. (Matthew Lazin-Ryder/CBC)

"The customers here would have seen the Bellevue Cafe shootout," says Chris Matthews, as he runs through the history of one the empty buildings in Crowsnest Pass. 

Matthews, the Executive Director of the Crowsnest Museum, is helping out with the Crowsnest Pass Empty Buildings Tour, run by local business owner Jessica Atkinson. 

"We have a number of empty buildings [in our community]," says Atkinson. "The idea was just to throw open the doors and invite people in from other communities...to see what opportunities there are." 

Atkinson and her husband moved to Crowsnest Pass, in the southwest corner of Alberta, in 2003. They love life there so much she wants people from elsewhere to see how great it is — and maybe move there too. 

Matthews, the historian, says you can see all of Alberta in Crowsnest Pass, which is a collection of five resource communities just east of the B.C. border. 

"It's a microcosm for Alberta. It's industrial based, it's boom, it's bust, it's up, it's down," says Matthews.

The town once thrived on mining and logging and still relies on industry today, but it's also trying to capitalize on tourism and heritage. Matthews says not every community in his province has gone through that cycle like his has — but they'll experience it soon. 

While Atkinson and Matthews know Alberta is in transition, they choose to look on the bright side. 

"Living in a place like this helps, because as much as people worry about the economy, or anything like that, I get to look out my back door and climb a mountain," says Matthews. 

Click on the blue button to hear more about Crowsnest Pass.