The bigger the ego

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In one of last year’s issues, I wrote about small towns and their appeal. More specifically, I wrote about how the gap between the largest and smallest “small towns” seems to be widening. Kemptville is still a small town, but it is far more urban than all of the other settlements in North Grenville. Take Heckston, for example – the comparison between Heckston and Kemptville in terms of size, amenities, and lifestyle is akin to a comparison between black and white. Towns like Kemptville tend to grow, with the aim being sustainable growth. Hamlets like Heckston often shrink over time, because unlike decades ago, these settlements no longer have their own self-contained economies wherein all basic necessities can be purchased without leaving town. 

Few would ever argue against the point that there is a clear distinction between life in a major city, and life in a town like Kemptville. Logic dictates that people who live in Kemptville are not “city people”. The average Kemptville resident wants basic amenities close by, but not the busy fast-paced lifestyle a city like Ottawa offers. I have known people who grew up in communities like Greely, Osgoode, and North Gower who moved south into North Grenville or one of the surrounding municipalities to get “out of the city” after the City of Ottawa swallowed the former townships that housed these towns. Paying property taxes to Ottawa doesn’t suddenly spawn skyscrapers in one’s formerly rural backyard, but for many people, the small town identity rides on being outside of city jurisdiction. 

Kemptville’s growth in the last decade or two has been astounding. Even though I grew up 45 minutes east, we passed through Kemptville a few times a year on the way to visit the Hershey factory in Smiths Falls, and both of my brothers attended Kemptville College. I remember a Kemptville before roundabouts and before the tracks of the old CPR spur line were removed. Kemptville really did feel like “just another small town” when I was a kid, but now it’s a shopping hub for much of the extended local area. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to remember that growth can be TOO fast. 

Early last week, social media talk began erupting in North Grenville about a new Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park planned for the small city of Cornwall, just over an hour southeast of Kemptville along Highway 401. It feels strange to be explaining where Cornwall is, as I grew up 20 minutes from the city and most of my extended family is still there. But I digress…

Some Kemptville locals were angered that Kemptville wasn’t chosen as the location for the resort. I think we need to step back and truly analyze this. A common saying, applied in different situations, is that the smaller an operation, town, or production is, the bigger the ego. I am starting to see this apply to Kemptville as well. There is only one other Great Wolf Lodge location in all of Ontario, located in Niagara Falls. Ottawa doesn’t have one. Toronto doesn’t have one. It seems arrogant to think that Kemptville is the only logical choice for location #2. I guess the smaller the town, the bigger the ego. 

Why is the new indoor water park slated for construction in Cornwall? Being only the second location within a large geographic location, the site needs to be in a central spot. Cornwall is about an hour from Montreal and an hour from Ottawa. It sits right on the American border, with a border crossing right in the city limits. There is an abundant supply of water for infrastructure, seeing as the city sits along the St. Lawrence River. The list goes on, and the location choice makes sense. The Lodge will be a resort – a destination for a family getaway. People don’t want to take their family on an indoor water park vacation in their own backyard any more than they wish the Mont Tremblant Ski Resort was 15 minutes away. “Getting away” is part of the experience.

This raises the question of why some North Grenville people think it was a slap in the face for Kemptville not to be chosen. I say “some” North Grenville people because many social media users have strongly argued the same points I raise, posting that Cornwall was the right choice after all. Those who want a 40 acre water park resort in a town of less than 5,000 people may just be caught up in the fallacy that bigger is better. I would wager that most of the people who live in Kemptville recognize that the Lodge would have drastically changed the feel of the town, and we would be one step closer to becoming absorbed by Ottawa. 

Another explanation could be the “big town” things that the small town of Kemptville already has. Walmart is a prime example. I was curious about just how many towns as small as Kemptville have their very own Walmart, so I took the liberty of locating a list of every Walmart locations in Ontario, and checking the populations of the towns in which each one is located. I made a discovery – Kemptville is in fact the smallest town in Ontario to have its own Walmart. This is not surprising considering our proximity to Ottawa, but it could help explain the attitude of believing we should also be next in line for a Great Wolf Lodge. 

What’s next? Sit back and celebrate! We will no longer have to travel 5-6 hours to Niagara Falls in order to visit a Great Wolf Lodge resort. A getaway with family will soon be only an hour away, not to mention that one of the benefits of the Lodge being touted is the tourism it will bring to surrounding areas as well. For example, an American or Montreal-based family spending a few nights at the Lodge may want to make a day trip out of visiting Ottawa, and guess what quaint little town is on the way via Highway 416! The Lodge may not be in our backyard, but when it’s completed some time in 2025, we will benefit from it too. That’s good news for all. 

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