Bilingual towns in trouble
The municipality of Ayer’s Cliff, which is sitting on a budget surplus of over $800,000 and so is in a promising position to look ahead, is planning its future and is now equipped with a Local Development Plan that spans the years 2013 to 2027. “We received a grant of $20,000 from the Soutien aux territoires en difficulte for the study,” commented Ayer’s Cliff mayor Alec van Zuiden in an interview with the Stanstead Journal.
Sitting uncomfortably with his arm in a sling as a result of a dangerous fall from his horse in November, Mr. van Zuiden was enthusiastic as he spoke about many of the interesting possibilities that citizens and local stakeholders will consider as the town plans its future.
“We’d like to see full public access to the lake here in Ayer’s Cliff for all Ayer’s Cliff residents; others would have to pay a fee, similar to how it’s
done at Merry Point, in Magog. That lake is like the first jewel in the Ayer’s Cliff crown. The second jewel would have to be the Ayer’s Cliff Fairgrounds. We need to work with the Stanstead County
Agricultural Society to help them preserve their Main Building,” said the mayor who visited the site with Orofrd MNA Pierre Reid recently.
The Development Plan has three main aspects: Improve the quality of life and revitalize the village; Promote the identity of
Ayer’s Cliff; and Create a destination for all. The first aspect would focus on Community Service Development, the creation of innovative companies and new health services, while the town’s identity would be promoted through increased cooperation with the Parc Regional Massawippi, public access to the lake and the preservation of the County Fair Grounds. To create a destination for all, the study suggested an expansion of outdoor sports activities and the promotion of tourism.
A specific project that is seriously being looked at for the near future is ‘free’, wireless internet service for Ayer’s Cliff residents. The town could be outfitted with wireless internet for a fraction of the cost of the total of what residents are now paying for internet service. “And visitors would be able to hook up to the internet on their laptops or Blackberries. That’s convenient.” An individual study has also begun on the possibility of building a gazebo and a boardwalk along the waterfront in front of the rest stop on the 141.
“What we hope to do with the development plan is to turn Ayer’s Cliff from a ‘house’ into a ‘home’, where everyone feels ‘at home’,” said Mr. van Zuiden.
Town wants to keep bilingual status
The Ayer’s Cliff council has signed a resolution to try and keep its bilingual status, along with other municipalities in the Memphremagog MRC. The Anglophone population in Ayer’s Cliff is at 41%. “It’s about showing respect for people and it promotes tourism. This bilingualism costs the towns, not the provincial government, so they should let the residents decide. Our resolution is on our website and the MRC has passed a similar resolution,” commented the mayor. Besides Ayer’s Cliff, the other municipalities with bilingual status are Bolton East, Hatley, North Hatley, Ogden, Potton Township, Stanstead and Stanstead Township.
Ayer’s Cliff mayor, Alec van Zuiden, stands beside a drawing of the shore of Lake Massawippi with a gazebo and boardwalk; an addition to the town that the council is considering.