Ron Oszust has lived in Golden for nearly three decades. He has been a business owner, now serves as unit chief for BC Ambulance, as well as serving in public office in several capacities including School Board Trustee, Area A Director, Town Councillor, and is currently Mayor of Golden. In these roles he has been involved in many of the tourism initiatives in Golden.
Q: How does tourism impact the culture of Golden?
A: There’s been quite a shift in the last 20 plus years since I’ve come to Golden. It used to be a very blue collar working logging town, to now where it’s a multi-legged economy with tourism, CP Rail, and still the mill and forestry…People come to the community for lifestyle, for those recreational activities. It provides a lot of opportunity for young people to come to town and make a living. They start by getting exposure through the mountains, often through the tourism, and go, ‘I kind of like it here.’ They can stitch together a living. So it’s allowed us to attract a young population, which a lot of communities struggle with. The lifestyle even attracts a lot of professionals, young doctors and such, who aren’t involved in tourism but come because of the outdoor adventure that Golden is known for.
Q: How is the ripple effect of tourism felt throughout the entire community?
A: The seasonal opportunities that allow people to stay here year round. So what we’re getting is these young people who stay a few years, find a partner, and start to buy houses, start families. We’ve had increased births, and we’ve actually increased student population in the schools which we haven’t seen for probably 20 years. And that spins into the non-tourist professions and industries. More people purchasing homes and goods, recreating and taking advantage of our amenities. But also getting involved in the community and volunteering. Search and Rescue for example, if there weren’t so many people in town that were involved in the adventure tourism industry, we wouldn’t have the skills they have to give back the way they do. But the biggest thing is that the town isn’t dying, it’s thriving.
It has also provided employment opportunities for local students. There’s always jobs in the summer for students returning from college. Not necessarily high paying jobs. But in a lot of small towns, the kids have to go somewhere else because there aren’t any jobs for them.
Q: What are some of the things that are available in town because of investment in tourism?
A: Through the Resort Municipality Initiative we’ve had a lot of things, including the trail maintenance for the Snowmobile Club. That’s big, I was involved in the club a while ago, and that was a struggle maintaining those trails. That’s a big tourism industry, but they’re also heavily enjoyed by locals. We’ve also done the banner program, the information kiosks, the work up on the highway, the landscaping and such. As a community we wouldn’t have been able to afford that stuff. It also helps with the infrastructure that some of the clubs have built. The Cycling Club has done some amazing stuff, and when they go to the granting table it helps to say that these trails bring in tourists. And it’s bringing in events like the SingleTrack 6.
We also have the new Early Learning Centre. Is that a secondary consequence of young people being in town? I think so, and it’s because of the tourism industry, so it cascades down. And if you follow further down that line, there are many older couples who have made Golden their retirement home because their kids have moved here, often through the tourism industry, and had grandchildren.
Personally, our kids probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the tourism industry.