Transforming a One-Industry Town

Pattern Canada Stories

Written By: Pattern Stories

A small town in British Columbia just turned 40, and it’s just getting started.

Established in 1981 as a coal mining community, Tumbler Ridge has since welcomed more industries to help the town thrive.

It all started when the Quintette mine was closed in 2000. The closure hit Tumbler Ridge hard because many residents were employed by the coal mines, and half the town moved away.

An Important Discovery

But around the same time, an important discovery was made in Tumbler Ridge.

“Back in 2000, two young boys found a massive dinosaur trackway and it led to the discovery of more dinosaur tracks and fossils. That’s when we started to get international attention and right away, our tourism levels increased by over 700%”, says Jenna McQueen, Program Coordinator for the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark.

The discovery and resulting interest in Tumbler Ridge helped plant the seed for the area to become a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2014. UNESCO—short for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—works with local communities and governments to designate sites of geological significance as specially protected geoparks. Since its creation, the geopark has helped bring more tourism to Tumbler Ridge.

A Close-Knit Community

Today, Tumbler Ridge has a population of about 2,200 people. Jenna says it’s the community’s volunteerism that has made the town what it is today.

“Tumbler Ridge is a very close-knit community. It basically thrives off the volunteers here. We have the Wolverine Nordic Mountain Society that built and maintains over 42 registered hiking trails, we have an ATV Club that built and maintains ten different ATV trails, there’s also a snowmobile association, and a mountain bike association that just got some funding to build some world-class mountain biking trails,” Jenna explains.

Museum

A Cleaner Kind of Energy

While the town is famous for its dinosaur discoveries, more recently, it has become known for clean energy.

“The wind industry has been a huge benefit to our town. It’s the newest industry to come here. With our unique landscape and consistent wind speeds, Tumbler Ridge is the perfect place to harness the power of wind,” Jenna says.

“The wind industry has been a huge benefit to our town. It’s the newest industry to come here. With our unique landscape and consistent wind speeds, Tumbler Ridge is the perfect place to harness the power of wind,” Jenna says.

Celebrating Coal’s Role

While some coal mines have shut down, one coal mine is still a major employer.

“There’s a common misconception that the coal mined here is ‘dirty’ or thermal coal, like the kind that was used to heat houses. But the type of coal mined here is metallurgical coal, which is used in steelmaking,” Jenna explains.

While the coal mines have opened and closed over the years, they’ve given the town a solid foundation.

“We are here and we get to celebrate the rich history of the area because of the coal mines. Coal was formed millions of years ago and more recently became an industry that created our town. The coal mines built the school, they built the golf course, the community centre—they really created where we are now,” Jenna explains.

Visiting Tumbler Ridge

If you’re planning on visiting Tumbler Ridge, there are a range of accommodations to choose from including hotels, motels, and campsites.

Learn more about the town and the Global Geopark by visiting the Tumbler Ridge website here.

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