By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected] 

The Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) meeting is coming to the Village of Radium Hot Springs in little more than a month’s time, bringing an influx of municipal government officials to the Columbia Valley and giving the village an economic boost during the typically quiet shoulder season.

This annual convention of regional officials takes place in a different Kootenay community each year. This year Radium hosts the event, which will see 150 delegates from local governments descend on the village, along with 14 exhibitors and several special speakers. It runs from Friday, April 19 to Sunday, April 21 at the Radium Hot Springs Centre.

The AKBLG meeting was last in the Columbia Valley a decade ago, when it was hosted by Copper Point Resort near the Highway 95/93 crossroads. You could say the valley is overdue to have the AKBLG meeting come back. That’s because Radium was originally scheduled to host the event in spring 2020.

The AKBLG organizing committee was making its final inspection of the Radium Hot Springs Centre in late March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was breaking across Canada.

“Everything was starting to shut down at the very same time the committee was here,” said Radium Hot Springs Mayor Mike Gray. (Gray was a Radium councillor back in 2020.)

Obviously the meeting, along with almost every other aspect of public life, was put on hold.

“We did some quick shifting on the fly, and the plan was that we would host it in 2021,” recalled Gray. “Well, that didn’t turn out either. So we (the village) thought we’d take a break and let another community take a stab at hosting it the following year (in 2022).”

By spring 2022, things were back to normal enough that the meeting went ahead in Nelson, then in spring 2023 it was in Cranbrook. Now it’s finally Radium’s turn.

“The third time’s the charm for Radium,” said Gray, wryly, referencing the cancelled 2020 and 2021 versions of the event.

The village is excited, he explained. “It’s a great chance to showcase our community, and showcase the Radium Hot Springs Centre . . . it’s also a nice economic boost to the community. Much of the benefit of the conference will be to local accommodators, local suppliers, local caterers, and event staff who are local.”

Gray is particularly enthusiastic to take meeting delegates on tours to Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund sites, to the Canfor sawmill in Radium, and to the Radium water system.

“The AKBLG is a good opportunity to learn about what other municipalities are doing, what’s working well for them. As a delegate you get a lot of ideas about what’s happening in other (Kootenay) communities, and how those ideas could work in your community,” he said.

Invermere Mayor Al Miller said the meeting, although not directly impacting his community, will be good for the Columbia Valley as a whole, “showing off” what makes this area special.

“It’s in shoulder season, when tourism usually tapers off. So having the extra visitors will be a boost to the hospitality industry,” said Miller. He was also happy that travel expenses for Invermere officials attending the AKBLG will be cheaper than normal.