So, what’s so very special about living in Cochrane?

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 6, 2010

The other day I was entering Cochrane Coffee Traders for my usual morning mug of light roast when a visitor to our foothills community approached me. She’d heard how enthusiastic I am about life in this part of the Bow Valley and was wondering why I like it here so much.

Now, that’s a question guaranteed to get a passionate response from me. Let me share with all of you a few of the reasons I love Cochrane.

First, of course, is our breathtaking scenery. Can any of us deny the thrill that is ours as we travel west along the 1A Highway into Cochrane? We begin the curving descent down Big Hill, and the valley panorama spreads out before us, first the Bow River and the hills to the south, then the town itself as it reaches westward toward the inviting mountains of Kananaskis Country and Banff.

Or for a closer engagement with nature, we stroll along the town’s magnificent pathway system. We might start along the river, follow the red path to the north, take in the aroma of wild grasses along the way or the vibrant colours of backyard gardens, pause on a bridge over Big Hill Creek, then eventually wind up at Cochrane Ranche and relax for a while beneath the Men of Vision statue, a tribute to our western heritage.

We might pause for a chat with folks we meet along the path. Yes, although our population is up to 16,000 and growing fast, we haven’t lost that small-town neighbourliness for which Cochrane is deservedly famous. We really like each other here, we really do!

As much as I enjoy meandering with my camera through the town’s natural places, however, I’m more likely to connect with folks at our various coffee shops, as is obvious from the name of my column.

The first thing in the morning, I often drop by our local A&W. The smiling staff behind the counter start my day off with a hot cup of happiness, as I catch up on the latest news and views from the old timers who have their favourite tables in the orange and brown genial setting.

Or, as was the case just the other day, I might be handed the biggest homegrown potato I’ve ever seen, a gift to me by local rancher Walter Wearmouth, who usually sits with other ranchers and cowpokes at their corner table. (Thanks, Walter.)

Later in the morning, after I’ve caught up on some correspondence and phone messages at my home office, I head into the heart of old-town Cochrane. There, in addition to my usual visit to Coffee Traders, I drop by several of the shops and galleries that shape the character of small business in our community. These are the places I meet newcomers to our community.

Other coffee shops I visit during the day include Java Jamboree and Guy’s Bakery, locally owned businesses each with its own micro-community that, altogether, paint a picture of geniality, industry, heritage and vision.

Speaking of pictures, one of the best graphic representations of our town’s complex makeup is to be found in the 18-by-12-foot mural mosaic mounted above the grand staircase at the Cochrane RancheHouse, our town hall. (See my column of Sept. 12, 2007.)

“Trust,” the brainchild of Alberta artist Lewis Lavoie, consists of 216 one-foot-square paintings by over 160 local artists and depicts the natural and social legacy of our part of the world, including iconic buildings, First Nations heritage, and ranch life.

Our western roots come front and centre when the mosaic is viewed from a distance and the 216 separate images portray a single new image, that of a young woman hugging her horse.

It’s all about “unity through diversity,” as Lavoie puts it.

Of course, there’s so much more to our town than what I’ve described here. I haven’t begun to mention the warm relationships and purposeful lifestyle folks enjoy through our churches, schools, workplaces, world-class recreation centre, sports activities, arts and culture, community services, and much, much more.

Nor have I mentioned the civility and compassionate concern with which members of this community came together the other night for an all-candidates forum leading up to this year’s municipal elections, less than two weeks away.

What I can say, however, is that, just like the mural mosaic, so also the life of Cochrane as a whole is all about the beauty of trust and positive relationships. That’s what defines our community.

And that’s the reason I love Cochrane.

© 2010 Warren Harbeck

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