TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
A road sign north of Oak Lake Beach points travellers in the direction of the former village of Scarth in the RM of Pipestone.
All Scarth needs is a tumbleweed blowing on the horizon and a spaghetti western film’s music in the background to be the stereotypical ghost town on the Prairies.
The main street and the community hall that used to be a curling rink in the former village of Scarth, south of Virden, on Tuesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
A cairn that relates the history of Scarth stands in the former community south of Virden on Tuesday. A community hall, the cairn, an old baseball diamond and a small playground are all that currently stand in Scarth.
(TIM SMITH/ BRANDON SUN)
The playground and a flag pole flying the Canadian flag stand in Scarth on Tuesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
While the former village now has a population of zero, the RM of Pipestone is endeavouring to change that, potentially offering up to 12 lots in a new residential subdivision.
"We’ve been looking at all areas of the RM in regards to re-population and increasing the tax base," said economic development officer Tanis Chalmers. "Scarth has been one area that council has talked about for a couple of years."
With only a community hall, which used to be a curling rink, a ball diamond and a playground, the community can’t offer many of the modern-day amenities many people are looking for. But for others, according to Chalmers, the ability to distance themselves from those amenities — and the traffic lights, 24-hour convenience stores and urban sprawl that comes with them — is a luxury in itself.
"Some people are looking for that rural lifestyle with the incentives of living in the RM of Pipestone," Chalmers said.
Those incentives include lower property taxes and school mill rates compared to bigger centres. And in 2011, just prior to Christmas, a $500 cheque was issued to every residence paid out of oil royalties from mineral rights owned by the RM.
An informational meeting was held recently at the Scarth Hall to gauge public interest and answer any questions about the development.
Chalmers said most of the questions centred around infrastructure challenges in the former community, which is now relegated to two streets located about 13 kilometres south of Virden near Highway 83.
"It was a positive meeting and any concerns that were raised were addressed at the meeting," she said.
For the most part, those concerns started and ended with sewer and water.
But a new rural water pipeline, in conjunction with the RM of Wallace, would solve one of the problems.
And technology, in the form of a new low-pressure, sewage system that involves a series of cells could solve the other.
The cell system, which is designed to produce a clear effluent, will be put to the test in a 16-lot subdivision in Cromer currently in the early stages of development.
The Cromer subdivision and a 24-lot subdivision in Reston are part of the RM’s aggressive strategy to attract more people to the area.
In Reston, all 24 lots were marketed for $10 with 21 selling and many already completed or currently in the construction phase.
Chalmers said the Cromer subdivision and potential Scarth subdivision will most likely follow the same model, selling lots inexpensively with a one-year time frame to build as the RM looks to expands its tax base and lessen the burden for all ratepayers.
"It’s something we can offer that other communities can’t," Chalmers said.
"It’s our way of contributing from the revenue the RM receives from oil royalties and it lets us compete with the larger centres around us."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 16, 2013