If tourism is to grow in Crowsnest Pass, it will need to be more of a collaborative effort. That’s the feeling of a locally based group, Heritage Crowsnest, which recently completed its first year of operation.
While some in the community might think its intent is to put everything under one umbrella, its CEO paints a different picture.
“We can’t run everything in heritage tourism. We don’t want to,” Chris Matthews explained to Crowsnest municipal council Sept. 12.
“We just want to be part of everything. We want to make everything better, easier, stronger, more sustainable.”
HC is currently working with three local attractions — Bellevue Underground Mine, Crowsnest Museum and the Alberta Provincial Police barracks. It hopes more of the area’s attractions will come on board.
As a partner, Heritage Crowsnest provides such help as accounting, staff recruitment and applying for funding grants.
“How do we help those groups? How do we foster that growth?” Matthews continued. Some societies and non-profits, he said, are limited in their staff and resources. That’s where he hopes HC is able to step in.
“In our first year, under the banner of Heritage Crowsnest, we have stabilized and grown the [three] operations,” Matthews told council.
“Our goal all along was to make those sites better, more sustainable. To cut excess waste and trim the fat. From the get-go, [HC] was meant to be a leader. It’s a broad statement but it’s also a lofty one. To be a leader is a lot and it has a lot of weight with it.”
As the process developed, Matthews said, there were some revelations.
“A lot of the core features of our documents were rooted in this idea of two sites [the mine and museum], get them working better, stronger, more stable. Out of it, a great governance framework grew and the statement became loftier.”
“It has also provided a living wage for the staff at these operations,” he added. “I believe we are a valuable economic driver for our community and for heritage tourism.”
In 2023, Bellevue Underground Mine welcomed roughly 8,000 visitors during its summer season; about half, some 4,000, stopped by the museum.