Strate­gic plan: You don’t ask, you don’t get

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- [email protected]­gar­

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.

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