Bragg Creek forges its own identity in Calgary’s shadow
For more than 100 years, Bragg Creek has existed in the shadow of the ever-expanding city of Calgary.
Yet the hamlet, located a 45-kilometre drive west of the city, has managed to maintain its enviable lifestyle in a beautiful location along the edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Resident and local business owner Mark Kamachi says he and his wife moved to Alberta from Vancouver 20 years ago to work at a Calgary advertising agency, and they chose to live in the city at first.
However, they found themselves spending many weekends hiking and biking in the mountains near Bragg Creek. Fifteen years ago, they decided to make it their new home.
“Having all these trees and the outdoors reminded us of living in B.C. It’s like coming home and you’re going camping,” said Kamachi. “Immediately, you relax. The fresh air, the wildlife, the nature…”
Kamachi says he later gave up his commute and started his own agency based in Bragg Creek, then watched his two children grow up in the community.
Even as Calgary continues to expand and inch closer to their little hamlet, he says Bragg Creek residents feel they can maintain the things that lured them to the community in the first place.
“Growth is good, competition is good. But there will never be a Costco or a Safeway in Bragg Creek,” he said. “We are our own little island.”
He says the community has its own business scene, and while that does include some big names like Shell, Esso and Subway, they have adapted to the Bragg Creek setting.
“Any franchise or business that wants to come to Bragg Creek has to blend in,” he said.
Suzanne Jackett, president of the Bragg Creek and Area Chamber of Commerce, says the community has seen its business side embrace many themes over the years, from early ranching centre, to an artist and artisan-rich community, to one serving hikers, cyclists and other outdoorsy visitors.
Growth is good, competition is good. But there will never be a Costco or a Safeway in Bragg Creek. We are our own little island.
In some ways, Jackett says, Bragg Creek has always known what it doesn’t want to be, but what it does what to be is harder to pinpoint.
“It’s really quite an eclectic little community,” she said, with artisans’ studios, heavy equipment contractors, funky shops and restaurants, stores for the basic amenities and services, and, of course, a popular ice cream shop for the visiting Calgarians all spread out along White Avenue, Heritage Mile and the main shopping mall.
Bragg Creek also has a long history of dealing with floods, with its location along the Elbow River and namesake Bragg Creek, but has proven to be resilient in the face of adversity.
The community was especially hard hit by the 2013 floods that devastated southern Alberta, and some Bragg Creek business owners decided not to rebuild.
Jackett says a revitalization plan is in development by Rocky View County, which includes a grassroots advisory committee.
Things are in the early stages, she says, and even government plans for flood mitigation in the Bragg Creek area have yet to be finalized, “So it’s hard for businesses to invest if they don’t know if they’re going to be protected.”
Longtime resident Doug Sephton has maintained his website, BraggCreek.ca, in one form or another for almost 20 years, and has not been afraid to tread on a few toes while making his views known on issues important to many locals, whether it’s logging, water quality or local development.
“We feel very attached to the wild lands and nature that surrounds us and we want to protect it,” said Sephton. “And you’ll find that’s a recurring theme any time you talk to people out here.”