So it has snowed! We awoke yesterday morning to a town covered in white powder. The weather report claimed Fernie had received around 32cm of snow in the last 24 hours alone.
The past two days have been spent resting and getting over our sicknesses (as Teeny has the early symptoms of whatever I have had). I have been working endlessly on my research poster for the ArcticNet Conference next week in Nova Scotia, while also reading a dozen or so journal articles.
We have managed to get out and about for a few hours each day to explore the town. Yesterday was windy, cloudy and cold but today was -8C and sunny. Teeny and I roamed around the nearby park, just two blocks away. We circled a frozen lake which had small oasis’ of water, populated by ducks who seemed impervious to the temperature. They were so darn cute sleeping on the ice.
My sister, Sarah, says the best thing about Canada is the change of seasons. The first snow day of winter is when every person goes out and plays in the snow. In contrast, in summer everyone goes out and barbecues, treks and mountain bikes. The change of seasons also bring seasonal foods – picking and eating wild berries in summer, or making eggnog in winter. In Queensland we basically have summer all year round, which brings advantages but we also miss out on a few things that you have to travel to experience. I wonder if these seasons make people value the short lived moments and activities that accompany these changes, they seem to not take things for granted as much as we do back home. I simply miss the sun right now.
Fernie itself has a large amount of public space reserved for its residents. The entire length of the river is bordered by parklands and trails. The trails are all interconnected and shoot off in all directions, some upstream or downstream and then some off to the mountains that tower over the town. In winter, these trails are populated by walkers and their dogs, kids on sleds and the odd cross-country skier or snow-shoer. In summer, I am told they are replaced by mountain bikers and trekkers as well as the occasional bear.
The parklands and forests around Fernie, particularly around the river in town, are well planned and well used. The locals embrace it and use it heavily. It reminds me of towns in Europe that I have visited where their geographical location also does not afford them the privilege of having beaches.
Fernie town is fairly densely populated, with small lots and fairly small houses, mostly cottages. Sarah hates the small space but I can see the practicality from a town planning point of view. This means everyone in town is a short walk away from the main street and its accompanying businesses and utilities. The town then ends abruptly at the edge of the river or on the edge of forests or farmland, which eventually rise to the mountains. Apparently the town limit is capped to preserve the majority of land around it. It is largely publicly owned, hence the myriad of trails and so forth. The parklands around the river also serve a practical purpose – flood mitigation. Take note Ipswich and Brisbane councils.
If small towns in Australia had the same, I wonder if they would see such use. I would have done anything for such spaces in Rosewood while I was growing up. I hope that one day we begin to put “green-belts” of land around our towns in Australia. If I ever have children, I’d like my kids to enjoy such places.