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New study labels Fort McMurray as “not just a work town”

PHOTO. Rock 97.9 Chris 'Welcome to Fort McMurray' sign, NKS Photography. Used with permission.

A new study done by scientists at the University of Alberta looks at how recreation and leisure improves the quality of livelihoods for the people that live in Fort McMurray.

The study stemmed from one done in 2016 that looked at the fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce in Fort McMurray and found that the rotational employment model could be having negative effects when workers can’t become involved in the community due to a lack of options.

Leith Deacon, assistant professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning, led the study along with graduate student, Trina Lamanes.

They began by interviewing permanent residents and determined that leisure and recreation are one of the best methods for improving connection and social interaction for both FIFO workers and permanent residents.

“This is actually saying the city of Fort McMurray and the Regional Municipality has done a lot trying to promote sense of place, one of which is through the development of good rec and leisure,” said Deacon.

In a press release Deacon mentioned that residents are satisfied with traditional leisure such as rinks, fields, and recreation centres.

Most residents of Fort McMurray are very supportive of the region, they really like it,” said Deacon. “It’s not just a work town, people, families live there, they love it. So this article really showed that they are and they have and they continue to make big strides improving the lives of folks that live there.”

Despite the findings the research also determined that there was a lack of non-traditional recreational opportunities, especially for shift workers.

Most interview participants, 84 per cent, stated there was a need for more tertiary recreational opportunities like shopping, dinning and entertainment.

“Where there was a little bit of critical feedback is tertiary leisure, so the potential for an increased variety of places or spaces that are different than that traditional role,” said Deacon.

Clear findings from the study which surprised Deacon was how satisfying interview participants were with the work the Municipality has played in developing recreational and leisure activities and how important Industry was to that work.