BC City Guide 2018: Dawson Creek

Dawson Creek is often thought of as the start or the end of a journey. That has much to do with its advantageous position on the Alaska Highway, which, depending on your view, begins or stops here. The Mile 0 City rose to prominence with the highway's construction during the...

Credit: New Harvest Media Inc.

At Mile 0, you’ll find a booming economy, an adventurous lifestyle—and a concert venue that wouldn’t look out of place in a much bigger city

Dawson Creek is often thought of as the start or the end of a journey. That has much to do with its advantageous position on the Alaska Highway, which, depending on your view, begins or stops here. The Mile 0 City rose to prominence with the highway’s construction during the Second World War, when American soldiers and workers came to B.C. to lay asphalt and concrete.

Today, Dawson Creek is a crossroads for oil and gas extraction and its associated services. Although this city near the Alberta border has yet to see the liquefied natural gas boom it’s been awaiting, Calgary-based Encana Corp. and other big players are investing billions in exploration, processing plants and pipelines. The prodigious Montney shale formation churns out valuable liquids and vapours, helping the community of about 13,000 keep unemployment low. The Montney produces some 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, at lower costs than in other parts of North America.

In fertile Peace River Country, where drilling rigs often occupy prairie farmland, the diversified economy also includes agriculture, mining, logging and wood products manufacturing. There’s a healthy construction business, too, though much of the work takes place in the warmer months (paving projects) or during the winter (building roads to oilfields).

With some of B.C.’s lowest housing prices and wages that are closer to the top, the city and the South Peace region as a whole have seen a steady rise in population over the past few years. To keep people satisfied with their town, Dawson Creek tries to make them feel included. The city encourages residents to attend its council meetings, advertising them wherever it can. For council, no issue is too small to raise, from the creation of time capsules to the BC Peace Predators Female Hockey Society requesting that ice fees be waived.

Local cross-country skiing is some of the best in the province, with about 20 kilometres of trails. There’s also downhill skiing on Bear Mountain, plus hiking routes around waterfalls and through alpine meadows.

Dawson Creek’s most remarkable recreational feature might be the Encana Events Centre, which includes a 4,500-seat concert venue that can hold up to 6,500. The stadium has hosted stars ranging from Bob Dylan to B.C.’s Carly Rae Jepsen, and some patrons come all the way from Edmonton. But wait, there’s more: the building houses an aquatic centre and an equestrian complex, too. The latter, equipped with 110 stalls and an indoor corral, helps draw doctors, lawyers and other professionals. It’s also a tip of the hat to Dawson Creek’s cowboy heritage, which locals celebrate at the annual fall rodeo.

Population: 12,622
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 48%, 35%, 17%
University grads: 12.2%
Average household income: $106,440
Average household income under 45: $98,873
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 21%
Five-year population growth: 5.2%

Average detached home price: $282,679
Average condominium price: n/a
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $1,072
Average annual household spending on shelter: $21,666

Key industries: Oil and natural gas; agriculture; mining; construction; logging; wood products manufacturing; wholesale trade
Notable employers: ARC ResourcesEncana Corp.Louisiana Pacific Canada Ltd.Northern Lights College
Regional unemployment: 4.5% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $27,960,000
Change from 2016: –30.2%
Average processing time for a building permit: n/a
Cost of a business licence: $60-$115
Business property tax rate:  $16.75 per $1,000 of assessed value
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: n/a
Average retail lease rate: n/a

Major post-secondary institutions: Northern Lights College
Major recreational amenities: Encana Events Centre (concert venue, aquatic centre and equestrian complex); seven sports fields; two skating rinks; curling rink; skateboard park; tennis courts; hiking trails; downhill and cross-country skiing
Key annual events: Peace Country Beef Congress; Gun Show and Sportsman Show; Pioneer Village Grande Opening and Jamboree; Kiskatinaw Fall Fair; Dawson Creek Agricultural Fair, Rodeo & Exhibition
Average annual household spending on recreation: $5,009
Residents who walk or bike to work: 7%