A notice arrived in media mailboxes on June 24 that caused a little confusion. It came from Transnomis Notifications and stated that Prescott Street would be closed from Reuben Street to Reuben Street the following Saturday, June 27. First of all, people were wondering: “Reuben Street to Reuben Street?” But the map accompanying the notification made it clear that it meant Prescott Street from the CIBC corner south to the United Church corner, so that was all right. But why was it being closed? It didn’t say.
The notice was received at 11a.m., and was posted to the Times Facebook page at noon. Then, at 6 p.m. that evening, we heard that the information was incorrect: it wasn’t June 27 when the road would close, but the following weekend. The next day, at 12.30, the Municipality of North Grenville sent out a release explaining what was happening (or not happening):
“The Municipality of North Grenville and the Old Town Kemptville BIA would like to inform residents and the business community that a road closure originally planned for Prescott Street on Saturday, June 27, 2020 will not be going ahead.
The closure was intended to facilitate an open street, to provide a pedestrian friendly environment and allow us to further support our businesses in the downtown core as we work together to re-open our economy. Due to logistical issues and the forecasted rain this initiative has been put on hold.
The Municipality will continue to work with the BIA and community partners to plan future programming. Stay tuned to the official North Grenville Municipal social media channels and website for updates.”
Transnomis Notifications sent a cancellation notice to the media an hour later. All of this was confusing enough, but it turned out that there was even more confusion behind the scenes. The closure notice was sent out before the BIA or Municipality had been consulted, and before the downtown businesses that might have benefitted from the closure had been notified.
The fact is that this is no time to have a pedestrian street in Kemptville, because businesses are only now trying to re-open and many of the initiatives that would accompany the closure – dancers, buskers, etc., are not permitted yet. But the idea is really good, and one that has been talked about for some time. Some residents will remember Dandelion Festivals or Canada Days when we could wander around Prescott and Clothier Streets, enjoying the live music and outdoor stalls, the colour and buzz.
So, don’t be confused or disappointed: those days will come again. It is never easy to get permission from the United Counties to close roads over which they have jurisdiction – like Prescott Street – but this attempt shows that it is possible, and will happen again. As Debbie Wilson, Chair of the Downtown Kemptville BIA said:
“This is a great idea. For many years we have not been able to close streets for events, this is a step in the right direction. However, planning, programming and timing did not get into place. Announcements were made before logistics could be sorted out. Please remember we are still in phase 2 of re-opening during this Covid-19 Pandemic. There are still a lot of restrictions in place. No musicians, no dancers, no demonstrations, and only businesses in the immediate closure area can participate. Some businesses find that closures can hinder business, some find it can help. We hope to find the middle and create something new in Old Town, Downtown Kemptville.”
The story as I heard it was that it was a scheme dreamt up between the BIA and the county as Prescott is a county jurisdiction and the the Municipality found out when everyone else did. Not only did they not consult or notify the residents that live in the affected area. Not well thought out or conceived idea. I have seen this done on other areas but this particular area is not a “Restaurant district” which would benefit by being able to enlarge their patios.