Tourist Park Beginnings
As the automobile became more affordable and more reliable the network of roads in the Columbia Basin expanded. Just after World War I any number of young men left the Services and began to move about, not comfortable with returning to a quiet life of store clerking or farming or lumbering. They spent a lot of time fishing and hunting, and touring. At first these fellows were content to spend their nights in bush camps alongside the creek they were fishing or near the basin they were exploring. A trade developed throughout this period which offered custom camping gear designed to work with the automobile. But as the 1920s unfolded the travelling needs became more defined.
Commercial travelling men often needed to move from town to town and, whereas they stayed in hotels when travelling by train, with the auto they often camped. Sometimes they even brought their families with them. And the young footloose men also started to settle and produce families, and they still had a love for auto touring. The influence of family was such that cooking over an open fire and sleeping on the ground lost some appeal.
Towns and cities throughout the Columbia Basin, tuned to the changing conditions and opening to the new possibilities of auto tourism, began to plan for the accommodation of the auto travelling public. Cities began to develop parks within or close to the downtown core. In those parks they began to set aside areas for camping, then began to develop facilities to make the camping more appealing.
Boards of Trade and chapters of the B.C. Automobile Club began to talk to city councils about the burgeoning tourist trade. It became clear that tourism was an economic force to be reckoned with, and to be solicited. Congruent with this these same organizations had been relentlessly pushing to develop better roads and attractive circle tours. With the opening of the Banff-Windermere Auto Highway in 1923 the economic reality of motor tourism became abundantly clear to the Columbia Basin. The commercial minds on city councils began to see dollar signs and that vision led to action. The Cranbrook Tourist Park was born and it set the mark for many others which followed.