If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know that we've been praising Fort McMurray to no end. I'm aware that this place gets bashed enough by left-wing, long-haired, granola-chomping tree huggers because of the oil industry and its not our intention to add to it here, or at least not in the vitriolic way these people often seem to do. Really, I can't complain all that much. This is by far the largest place I've lived in the past 10 years and really, it offers us the amenities we need (which Lisa likes) while allowing us to still enjoy a northern setting in the boreal forest (which I appreciate).
Still, there are a few things that annoy us so in the interest of balance (because a blog can always be used to show a rosey picture of things), here are a few things we wish were a little different. For the most part, they are all tied in together.
Prices - Fort McMurray is not a cheap place to live. Everything from groceries, services, receation etc. is pricey. I'm sure Lisa notices this much more than I do since she does much of (okay, all of) the grocery shopping. I've spent a number of years around the north, including the Northwest Territories and more recently, Nunavut, so really, every store I go into I feel like I'm getting a bargain. With a family though, I am a bit more attentive to prices than I used to be.
House Prices - I understand the whole supply and demand thing but prices here are nuts. Average house prices here ($645 000 for a detached house last month) easily give Vancouver a run for its money I'm sure. Really, we paid double the cost of what if would take to rebuild this place from scratch. Some of the places we looked at when we decided to get into the housing market here are pretty trashy and unless you were going to buy one and rent it out, I don't really see why anyone would want to buy it. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of nice places in our immediate area. A house I could have snatched up back around where we grew up is priced in the stratosphere here. Many times as we've been house gazing, we've been tempted to stop the van, knock on a door and ask the owner exactly what they do for a living. Still, houses move fast. There were I believe 7 places on our street for sale when we took possession and now I think there are only 2. If there is a bright side to all this though is that if the price of oil stays where it is, we could buy a very nice retirement home in PEI, where were plan to head one day in the future.
Traffic - Many parts of Fort McMurray were built up in the 1970's and 1980's. The place is growing too fast to keep up with the volume of traffic. People drive a little crazy here at times. Our first trip up to the Thickwood area (where we now live) back last fall, didn't get off to a good start. A fender bender just at the top of the hill coming into Thickwood created a monster traffic snarl, which we then found ourselves in. Since the road we were on was the main artery, we were forced to retreat back across the river. Since Lisa does the bulk of the driving, she finds people get a little crazy here when they get behind the wheel. And I have to agree. I've lost count of the number of inconsiderate drivers we've seen. They give Montrealers a run for their money.
Tim Hortons - There are only 2 in this town. Now one of them is located within walking distance but the line up for the drive-thru is insanely long, often backing out onto the main road.
Vice - I don't know all the stats but from what I gather drugs and trafficking is a bit of an issue here. I know this is not anything any different from any other community of comparable size but given how much money can be made here, the problems will most likely get worse before they get better. We noticed 3 RCMP cruisers outside a pretty nice house in an upscale neighborhood and when I remarked about how I thought it odd to see so many police in this particular part of town, Lisa mentioned it could be drug related. When I responded by saying that anyone in this neighborhood wouldn't need to be involved with drugs if they could afford such a fancy place, she pointed out how it would be a good way (perhaps even a tempting way) to pay a mortgage given the housing market here. Just goes to show you that drugs aren't just a downtown problem here. I can't quote exact numbers but the police have made fighting the drug trade a big priority and have taken on something like 25 extra police to help keep things under control.
Pedestrian friendly - I'm sure some out there would disagree with me on this one but while there are plenty of trails and green areas, there are times when I don't find this place all that pedestrian friendly. The different subdivisions are pretty spread out so you pretty much need a vehicle of some sort.
Other than these few things, we are quite content here and we don't really notice these things. It's kind of like not really noticing a large line up unless of course you happen to be in that large line up.