This past year was unlike we could have imagined. As Council headed into its second year, we were full of passion and spirit, ready to build on the success from the year before.
And of course, who could forget our beloved Van Turken, the local turkey who stole our hearts and imagination! The lone turkey who chased a municipal employee in the parking lot during a snowstorm, caught on video, that generated national media attention. Named by the community, mugs, T-shirts and bumper stickers were created out of his/her legacy. There is even a Facebook group and Twitter account! The Ministry of Natural Resources was called in to safely capture and relocate the genderless bird. With all the fanfare and by the request of the community, Council declared the second Saturday of February Van Turken Day.
When the Coronavirus arrived in March, the Municipality acted promptly to protect the community. Mayor Peckford, with the support of the Emergency Control Group, declared a State of Emergency for the Municipality of North Grenville on March 25, 2020. This allowed North Grenville’s municipal government to respond quickly to the pandemic, particularly in the early weeks.
While there have been lots of challenges, we can certainly count our blessings:
We are grateful that our long-term care homes have not experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, thanks to the swift action and diligence of the hardworking staff at Bayfield and the Kemptville Retirement Home.
Up until this point, while other regions in the Province were experiencing high transmission rates, North Grenville and most of the eastern region within our health unit had low cases of COVID-19. And of course, the recent transition from Green-Prevent level up to the Yellow-Protect level, highlights just how quickly the virus can spread when precautions are not in place.
- Early in the lockdown, with massive economic disruptions and closures, we knew small businesses would be struggling. The Municipality invested $100,000 in a COVID-19 Business Response program to support our local economy. This provided small grants to assist local businesses to pivot their business model to a stronger web presence and adapt to the changes as a result of the pandemic.
We were so fortunate to have access to so many nature trails in Ferguson Forestry Centre and Kemptville Campus, particularly early on in the pandemic, where we saw a significant increase in use, which contributed to the physical and mental health of so many residents.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we come together and celebrate as a community, it has not dampened our collective spirits. In the spring, many local churches, inspired by a Burritt’s Rapids resident who lives in what was an old church, began ringing the church bells to cheer on and thank our frontline workers every Monday at 5:30 p.m.
On Canada Day, the Kemptville District Community Association worked alongside its neighbouring community associations to host an outstanding virtual celebration that captivated families and seniors alike.
Although many of the fundraisers for local charities were not able to take place as planned, we saw the community come together creatively and support the organizations and causes they represent. Many groups held virtual events, including the Neon Night for childhood cancer, the Terry Fox Run, the Santa Shuffle for the Salvation Army, and the #NGGives Initiative that raised $10,000 for the House of Lazarus. Despite the additional challenges brought by COVID, our community showed its hometown pride and generosity, and helped raised more money than ever before!
On Halloween, residents and community associations went above and beyond to offer a safe trick or treating option for families who wished to venture out, and our local BIA organized a wonderful pumpkin parade for everyone else.
As part of our ongoing strategy to support local and #LoveNG, we introduced a new local currency, NG Green, that can only be used at North Grenville’s participating businesses as a way to keep our dollars in the community.
In early December, North Grenville saw its first community Christmas tree going up in Rotary Park, a park which was lovingly cared for in the summer months by so many volunteers.
There is no doubt that our community has shown tremendous resilience. We have relied on each other to follow precautions to keep North Grenville safe, especially those at risk. Council is proud of the creativity and innovation so many have shown, as we all found new ways to connect virtually or at a safe distance.
Looking to 2021:
The pandemic has also highlighted some critical areas for focus: 1. improvements to rural broadband (internet) throughout the Municipality; 2. the limits and opportunities for virtual fundraising; 3. the increased pressures on the Municipality’s by-law services; 4. the urgent need to upgrade CR 43 (scheduled to begin in 2021 now that the funding is secured); and 5. the value of investing in our local trails, pathways and waterways to keep people moving and outside.
And while the pandemic will not be over when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, there is much to look forward to. The recent news of the approved COVID-19 vaccine gives us much hope. We know it will be a phased approach, with those most vulnerable at the top of the distribution list. Until then, we must continue to be vigilant and follow public health guidelines.
It may feel like a long time, but this, too, shall pass. The more we sustain our efforts and follow public health protocols, the sooner we can all enjoy so many of the things we took for granted a year ago.
On behalf of Council and the staff at the Municipality of North Grenville, we would like to wish residents of North Grenville a safe and wonderful holiday, and a healthy and prosperous 2021.
Mayor Nancy Peckford
Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman
Councillor John Barclay
Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan
Councillor Kristin Strackerjan