Strategic plan: You don’t ask, you don’t get
There is nothing quite like a good public consultation process to raise expectations among the masses that their voices will be heard by the power that be. Thus, there ought to be a sense of anticipation in the air as North Glengarrians eagerly participate in an online survey that is supposed to help the township prepare its strategic plan. For the entire month of March, the municipality is holding an online survey to encourage citizens to, among other things, envisage what the place will look like in 2029.
The poll will be used to provide guidance to municipal officials as they take decisions on growth, services, planning, approvals, policies, bylaws, budgets, services and growth.
If you are not excited about this survey yet, remember that answering the few questions takes only a few minutes.
While you are waiting for the kettle to boil or the sap bucket to fill up, you can tell North Glengarry’s leaders why this is such a great place to live, and if you have some bright ideas, make suggestions on how this great place could be made even greater.
Many North Glengarrians will remember that they have been through this sort of “blue sky” session a few years back.
In 2015, when the Community Improvement Plan was in its developmental stages, people came out to meetings to provide input that would create the framework for downtown revitalization efforts.
Back then, some very familiar issues, many of which have since been tackled, were mentioned during one meeting in Alexandria.
There was no shortage of ideas about how to revitalize Main Street. After about 55 people spent about two hours “re-imagining” the downtown core, the consensus was that the best laid plans for any renewal would be detoured if heavy trucks continued to roll through the downtown.
“Exploring our past for a better tomorrow” was the theme of the process; the goal was to create a “Main Street which is a remarkable place to shop, live and do business.”
Most of the discussion was centred around transports that were described as being “horrible, noisy and off-putting” monsters that scared children and pets.
Since then, massive commercial vehicles have continued to lumber through Alexandria’s downtown. Yet it seems that many truckers have heeded the warnings that they are to use the bypass that is meant to relieve congestion on the main artery.
Several of the ideas floated at those consultation sessions four years ago have become reality or are in the process of seeing the light of day.
A pedestrian-water link was identified as being a vital component of any revitalization project. Features such as Mill Pond and Island Park were cited as obvious assets.
Mill Pond was singled out as being an “impressive natural element with potential” and an “incredible asset.”
Actions in recent years have been taken to implement thoughts of tying together natural attractions with Mill Square. The creation of murals stemmed from those 2015 discussions.
Other ideas included more greenery, bike lanes, wider sidewalks, tree-lined streets with an historical cachet. Some of the problems mentioned were high rents, Canada geese at Mill Pond and the lack of reserved parking for senior citizens. So, obviously certain weaknesses have yet to be resolved. However, the geese flock seems to have been brought under control, much to the relief of park users who are less often required to tiptoe around reminders that Canada geese are large and regular birds.
Plus, business owners and residents throughout the municipality have been spruced up through the Community Improvement Plan.
Between 2016 and October of 2018, some 26 applications from property owners (nine from Maxville, 14 from Alexandria, two from Glen Robertson and one from Greenfield) were approved with a total of $179,286 in grants and $174,499 in loans being allocated. More projects will further upgrade the look of the communities of North Glengarry.
Meanwhile, the latest round of consultation is an opportunity for the populace to draw up another wish list.
A stagnating population and the lack of access to affordable high-speed Internet service come to mind as obstacles to improving life in the Celtic Heartland of Ontario.
We could always use more industries, and jobs, and more choices.
Shortfalls in basic infrastructure are in the process of being resolved. Maxville will, some day soon, finally get a solution to its chronic drinking water problem. When the water finally flows in from Alexandria, Maxville is expected to boom.
A lack of diversity is always a concern, particularly when the economy is involved. North Glengarry is still dependent on a handful of big employers, companies that are subject to the ups and downs of ever-changing markets.
And, there is always the possibility that Glengarry District High School will be returned to the Upper Canada District School Board’s “hit list.”
Many of these worries could be allayed by more people. More consumers, more taxpayers, more students would invoke a collective sigh of relief.
Developing the township as a tourist destination and diversifying the economy are definitely ambitious and long-term goals.
Those are just some of the issues that could be underlined during the township’s survey. You no doubt have your share of brilliant ideas.
There is no guarantee that anything will ever be done with your notions, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Richard Mahoney
In your spare time, let North Glengarry know what you envisage.