By Tim Kalinowski
Twitter:GLATimKalThis story is not an heroic one. This is not the story of a community pulling itself up by it bootstraps to stand defiantly in the hot prairie sun ready to take on all comers. It’s a story of dogged survival, adaptability, collective action for mutual gain– and foresight. It is this last quality which figures most prominently in the history of the community of Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, and which continues to ensure its prosperity even today.
Of all the gifts a community can have– enterprising individuals, courage, steadfastness, inclusiveness, hype, pragmatism– foresight is the one quality that cannot be taught or adopted, it has to be there from the beginning.
It was there when Conrad and Price, millionaire real estate speculators from east coast of the United States, saw the potential in buying the chunk of land Gull Lake now sits on from the bankrupt 76 Ranch, and setting up the first town site just as the railway came through. It was there when later town councils decided to pave the streets, build a swimming pool and construct a recreation centre. It was there when the early business entrepreneurs of the community understood Gull Lake’s advantage of centrality in southwest Saskatchewan, positioned at a key crossroads, and set up a commercial, retail hub to cater to the the burgeoning pioneer population. It is there today as Gull Lake’s oil and gas service companies understand the same advantage.
Foresight means not just seeing the possibilities of the present– it’s about seeing what could be and meeting that future head on.
In recent years, Gull Lake has made several strides toward that impending future. The community has set up a new, high quality website. It is successfully wooing new businesses and new residents, many of them young families with children. It has several new housing starts with plenty of empty lots for interested developers to build on. It has upgraded its local community-owned movie theatre to digital and real 3D. Gull Lake has taken the initiative to to get involved with community building exercises like Communities in Bloom, and is eagerly seeking out new development and investment.
Town representatives have also been out there in force promoting the heck out of the town.
“We need to attract builders and developers,” Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell explains. “You do need to showcase, when you have the opportunity, to let developers know there are opportunities in the southwest outside of Swift Current. The days of thinking people are just going to breeze into your town have pretty much come to an end.”
Campbell says all of the community’s activities of recent years are geared toward ensuring Gull Lake has someplace to grow toward in the future.
“We’re not saying things are going to happen overnight. It’s a process. But we are committed to doing more. Honestly, if you looked at Gull Lake this year alone we’ve made several strides. I had a gentleman from a neighbouring town say recently almost everywhere I’m going, I’m hearing about something you guys are doing.”
Campbell acknowledges much of the new development in Gull Lake is being driven by expansions in the local oil and gas industry; however, the town is also seeing new residents coming in who would rather live in a conveniently located smaller community which gives them the best of both worlds: Small town family life and close proximity to shopping and services in the City of Swift Current.
“We’re right in the middle of southwest Saskatchewan. Gull Lake is well-placed for anybody who doesn’t want to live in the city, but who maybe works in the city. From 2012 to today, we’ve had 42 houses sold in Gull Lake. We’ve got to get that kind of information out there,”says Campbell
Campbell feels while there certainly needs to be some expansion in industrial lot capacity in Gull Lake, overall, Gull Lake is well-positioned to attract new growth and new investment.
“Gull Lake is open for business,” says Campbell. “We do want to see new families move into town. That’s how a community grows. And we can already show we have new families coming into town.”
Foresight is not some mystical principle which predicts the future, but it does require imagination to see what is here now and discern where you could be down the road. It also requires vision. You know where you want to go and from that can extrapolate the steps necessary to get there. The final element is will. Once the goal is identified, you must have the will and courage to walk toward it, meeting whatever challenges you encounter head on. All these things together equal foresight.
And it something successful communities, like Gull Lake, have always possessed and utilized to ensure the long-term prosperity of their citizens.