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Christina is a media relations officer with the RCMP in Fort McMurray, and her husband Byron is also a member of the detachment. When the time came to move on from Fort Saskatchewan they asked for a posting in the north, thinking that it would be a great place to raise a family. Wood Buffalo hasn’t disappointed. “We’re both outdoor enthusiasts and we have this incredible wilderness right at our doorstep. It’s beautiful,” says Wilkins.
On and off the job, every day brings something new to the Wilkins family.
“The recreational options are endless and world-class. As the kids grow older they’ll have all kinds of opportunity to participate and compete. We also have a strong arts community. Right now there are just so many ways to have fun!”
The Wood Buffalo RCMP detachment is large and contains significant resources. Wilkins says “It’s a very police-friendly place. It’s really rewarding to be teaching, working with the media and different area stakeholders. There’s a lot of co-operation and commitment to a safe community.”
They say you can’t go back. According to Jean and Leslie Janes, they’re wrong.
After living in Fort McMurray from 1992 through 1998, Jean and her husband moved back from Barrie in 2000. “We knew we’d find jobs, but we had no idea how much the city had changed. There are incredible recreation facilities. Improvements have been made to retail but there still isn’t enough. You wait in line or they’re sold out. We still find ourselves heading out of town to get what we need,” says Jean.
And it’s expensive?
“You just have to be smart with your money and you can really live well. We have lots of toys; lake property, a quad, a travel trailer.”
Jean is a realtor and property manager and Leslie is a heavy equipment operator with Syncrude. Daughter Jeanna also has a home in Fort McMurray, and son Joshua works on-site, commuting from Edmonton.
“It’s a good place to raise a family,” Jean says. “And a great place for our children to make a life for themselves.”
Joe is a student working with Syncrude and hoping to return when he finishes university in New Brunswick next year. Joe says “It’s a lot like home. Small town feel but with these incredible facilities. I love it here.
People are friendly and there is always lots to do. It’s exciting.” Joe says that what isn’t perfect is constantly improving. “Transportation. But it’s getting better all the time.”
Juliane is studying Education at Keyano College and is quick to say that the education system she has grown up in really makes the grade. “It’s a great place to learn and it will be a great place to teach,” says Juliane.
Wood Buffalo produces more than its share of scholarship and grant winners who benefit from world-class facilities and easy access to enthusiastic and dedicated instructors. Involved in piano and dance, Juliane notes that “the arts community is really strong, with a lot of support.”
As a life-long resident, what would she like to see more of in Wood Buffalo? “Casual recreation and entertainment. Just nice places to hang with your friends in a low-key environment.”