Located near the confluence of the Wolverine and Murray Rivers in northeastern British Columbia is Tumbler Ridge, a small town quietly nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. An outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Tumbler Ridge is surrounded by stunning cascades, trails and valleys.
Land Area, km2
Mining Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction
The youngest master planned community in Canada, Tumbler Ridge was built in the 1980s to accommodate the flourishing coal industry. The success of the mines lasted until mid-2000s when the Quintette Coal Mine closed its doors, followed by Bullmoose Mine in 2003. Not long after, the community saw the Western Coal’s Wolverine Mine open its doors in 2005, followed by Peace River’s Coal Trend Mine. Earlier this year however, the Western Coal’s Wolverine Mine shut its doors, putting over 400 people out of work. Managing the unstable cyclical nature of the coal mines has left the town in a state of limbo. Currently those who own homes are finding themselves unable to sell them due to the uncertainty about the job market in the area.
There is however, potential for the town to grow rapidly when the mines do hire again and as new Chinese mines come into production – growth that Tumbler Ridge will have to manage effectively to ensure that housing and services are in abundance. The town will also need to manage the integration of Chinese immigrants to the area if the mines go forward. These mines will bring more than 1000 Chinese into a community of potentially 2700, leaving the town to face big language and cultural challenges.
Though there is a lovely library and community centre located in the downtown core, there are very few small businesses and social agencies. And those that do exist are having trouble finding people with the right skills to fill any available positions.
Closures have affected all areas of the community – programs at the local college have been shut down, as well as most restaurants, so community members have to go out of town for many services. The college lost its adult basic education instructor and the community, its ESL instructor. Upgrading must now be provided though distance education courses.
With the nearby Kinuseo Falls, untouched wilderness and trails in the area – Tumbler Ridge has the tremendous tourism potential. The town also recently became the second area in North America to receive Geopark status. The Tumbler Ridge Geopark spans nearly 8,000 square kilometres and contains dinosaur tracks, mountain trails, canyon falls and wetlands. Consistent unidirectional wind makes wind energy very attractive for this area, with many windmills between Tumbler Ridge and Dawson Creek.
The town is currently trying to diversify its economic base to include wind energy and tourism. Townspeople are determined to build the town up, with many volunteering their time – and with a new Visitor’s Centre and Chamber of Commerce being built, they are well positioned to plan for this expansion.