A small community with much to offer

The village of New Denver is too good to miss

by Katrine Campbell
People dancing around a maypole

New Denver is a lively place, with lots of fun activities, such as their annual May Days celebration. — Debbie Hicks photo

For a village with a population hovering around the 500 mark, New Denver manages to get more than its share of attention nationally and even internationally. Villagers made headlines when some objected to Telus’ decision to piggyback its cell tower onto the existing CBC tower, on the lakefront. Concerned about EMF effects on health, they prompted council to hold a referendum on having the tower within the village limits. By a narrow vote, the objectors won. But cell service was on its way by the summer of 2010, as the referendum was not binding on the corporation.

New Denver is also home to Canada’s only interpretive centre dedicated to the Japanese-Canadian internment during World War II. The Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre hosts visitors from around the world every summer, and through school tours teaches students about this nasty piece of history.

As the birthplace of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, the village was the focal point of controversy, particularly in the early years when tempers ran high between forestry workers and opponents of bad logging practices.

New Denver is the largest of three villages in the Slocan Valley, on the shores of Slocan Lake. Founded as a mining town, in a valley containing vast quantities of silver, lead and zinc, the village boomed. Now, only one mine, Klondike Silver’s property in Sandon, is still in operation. Forestry took over when the mines went quiet, but that too has slowed down, hit hard by the global economic downturn.

Painting the town

Despite this, the people of New Denver recall past predictions of gloom and doom and take it all in stride. Summer tourists keep the economy going, and many small storefront and home-based businesses have been started in the absence of any major industry. The village of New Denver encourages downtown property owners to spruce up their buildings by providing a grant to help with painting cost through the façade program.

“People I’ve talked to in the construction trades have been very busy,” said Mayor Gary Wright, “and surprisingly, the tourist business has held up to at least the same level as the past couple of years. A lot of the tourism business people are saying they see an increase in B.C. and Alberta travellers, making up for the decrease in American and offshore visitors.”

In a strange coincidence of timing, two couples have each announced plans to build grocery stores, joining the existing Ann’s Natural Foods, Bigway, and Mountainberry. Add in the local produce available at the Friday Market, fresh baked goods from Sappho’s Bakery and frozen soup from Soup du Jar, and both residents and visitors are well-served in the food department.

There are 14 business in the downtown core, not counting the post office and liquor store. The Village office has sold 64 business licences, however, meaning there are at least 50 home-based enterprises.

The Slocan District Chamber of Commerce, which takes in the area from Hills to Lemon Creek, has 64 members, 28 of them from New Denver. The organization has been struggling for several years, with little interest from members and new directors trying to find a way forward. The chamber adopted an anti-cellphone stance, not because of the perceived health problems but because it believes promoting the lack of cell service will attract people craving peace and quiet. That selling point is now gone, but the tourists will still come. New Denver is just too good to miss. 

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