Ian Penninga: Adapting to Life in a Small Town: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program

Ian Penninga
July 27, 2021

If you have spent a period of time living in a small town or have talked to anyone who lived in a small town (<10,000 people) you will know that in order to find hobbies and ways to spend evenings and weekends, you must be much more creative than if you were in the city. But more than just finding things to do, small towns can be a major culture shock to people who have not spent any time in them. For example, one of my classmates from university who was going to be completing a forestry work term in Northern BC was extremely surprised to learn that the city he was moving to did not even have a transit system for him and that he would be very helpless without a car. With this post I hope that I can show that there is plenty to do in small forestry towns.  

Snowmobiling in Babine Mountains Provincial Park, Smithers, BC.

As I mentioned in my first blog post, I grew up in the beautiful town of Smithers, BC. Smithers is by no means a large center, and as a result, activities to keep yourself busy were limited and often very seasonal based. For many of the small forestry-based towns like Smithers, there are often more opportunities for activities during the summer than the winter. There is almost always a lake nearby the town, so this opens many opportunities for swimming, paddle boarding, boating, and fishing during the summer, and you can skate or ice fishing on the lake in the winter. Depending on the surrounding terrain, mountain biking (downhill and/or cross-country) and hiking are also very popular during the summer. If those activities are not interesting for you there is always camping, hunting, dirt biking & quadding, organized sports, and even the odd store for shopping. For the towns that have nearby mountains, there is often a ski hill within a couple hours of the community during the winter months, as well as snowmobiling, snow shoeing, outdoor and indoor hockey, and cross-country skiing. Year round there are also many opportunities to support local businesses and restaurants during festivals, events, or even just Friday night get-togethers with friends.  

For daily life in a small town, it is easy to become accustomed to the relaxed pace and the easy commutes. After living in a small town, you soon become annoyed if you have to drive to the other side of town to pick something up (usually a 10-minute drive), only to take a trip to the city and realize just how easy and fast it is to get around in a small town. As for groceries and shopping, the necessities can be purchased in the town, and the internet has made it very easy to purchase anything else that you may need. Small towns also have a great community spirit, and everyone is very welcoming to visitors and newcomers. This is something I have personally experienced while participating in community events such as organized or drop-in sports.  

Myself beside my father’s moose from last fall.

Moving from a city to a forestry-based town for work can be a very uncertain change because many people have never lived in a small town or moved to a place away from friends and family. I personally have lived in both and would rather live in a small town if I had a choice. I hope with this blog that I have explained some of the wonderful opportunities that exist to explore the outdoors and have fun while living in a forestry town.  

A lake trout caught in Fulton Lake, BC.
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