I could live in Jasper. At least, I could live in Jasper in the summertime. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the Jasper Townsite, but after a few trips in to eat, shop, or just kill some time, I fell in love with this tiny little community.
The main bulk of what most visitors would consider "the town" is about 2 blocks deep and 5 or 6 blocks long. The shops, restaurants, and park information center cling to the main drags of Connaught Drive and Patricia Street, drawing the majority of travelers into one small area. While I enjoyed what these establishments had to offer, it was the back streets of Jasper that really charmed my senses.
Dropping back a block or two from the sometimes bustling front streets, Jasper Townsite begins to look less like a destination and more like a home. Small houses and even smaller condo-style units are tucked in wherever possible without seeming too crowded. Perhaps it is the large scale of the mountain scenery that makes even the tightest row of dwellings look like an insignificant intrusion on the landscape. The recreation field, activity centre, and high school all crouch unassumingly behind the rows of shops, almost invisible to the un-inquisitive eye. According to local literature, Parks Canada has been fighting expansion in the communities within Jasper and Banff and a "need to reside" policy limits infiltration by new residents who might push for more housing and businesses. As for me, I like Jasper the way it is - or the way it was when we arrived.
I can't help but feel that we witnessed a historic event in our travels through the town. One day, we waited patiently at a stop sign. The next day, we scooted around some heavy equipment at the roadside. Then, one day, there it was - a traffic light. Whether this might have been a long-awaited replacement signal I cannot say, but I suspect that in fact, we did witness the first traffic light to go up in Jasper Townsite. It was a bit sad, really, to see such a quaint little town suddenly take that one small step toward... bigness and change. One thing I liked best about Jasper was its sense of sleepiness and removal from the rest of the world. Even the movie theater seemed to fit into the profile of the town, not affecting its character. This light, however, this monstrosity, if you will, didn't seem to fit at all. This was not your small town signal that dangles on a wire, lights pointed in all directions from a single box. This was a multi-part system mounted to black steel arms that reached out over the street and demanded to be looked at. While I know that traffic safety demands this growth and that even small towns like Jasper must change with time, I cannot help but feel a little lump of sadness for the loss of that one small bit of character. That one slight concession to the 21st century seemed to bring with it so much uncertainty about the days ahead. Many years from now, when I am able to return once again to Jasper, I hope that I will find the heart of its character unchanged. I hope that despite the trappings of new times and new technologies, it will remain, at its core, a sleepy little town drowsing away in the mountains of Alberta.