by John Barclay
In 2017, I attended the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair’s Teeny Tiny Summit in Merrickville. The summit was an opportunity to learn and discuss “scale appropriate” economic development. For all our much vaunted urban-style amenities, Kemptville is still very much a small rural town, with all the typical development problems of other teeny tiny places; so I was very interested in attending on behalf of the Old Town Kemptville BIA.
The keynote speaker was Peter Kenyon, a self described “community enthusiast” from Western Australia. A dynamic speaker, he shared a number of amazing examples of how very small rural communities had transformed themselves from the inside out using imaginative, positive thinking community members, rather than government-driven programs or philanthropy. The range of ideas and projects initiated by ordinary citizens to turn their community’s economy around was truly inspiring. Not that these ideas can be replicated successfully in other communities. Each found their own unique solution to declining population and job loss. The “take away” was the power of positive thinking and the confirmation that “People who care are a community’s greatest asset” (Paul Born).
I was reminded of what our community has accomplished by the vision and dedication of ordinary people; of what the Friends of the Library and the Friends of Ferguson Forest have accomplished; of what the various faith communities in North Grenville have built; and I started to wonder what might be accomplished in Kemptville by Friends of Downtown. Could it be, as Peter Kenyon suggested a number of times, that “we are the ones we’re waiting for” to create a vibrant, thriving and resilient economy downtown?
The community of Oxford Mills got tired of waiting for the Municipality to replace the gazebo in Maplewood Park, and did it themselves. Take a look at what they accomplished by having a vision and a belief in themselves. Great things can happen when people get together. When they share their talents, time and treasure in the service of an idea.
Does North Grenville want a walkable, bicycle-friendly downtown with adequate parking; an outdoor rink and splash pad in Riverside Park; a trail running along the South Branch connecting Ferguson Forest to the downtown parks (Curry, Rotary, Post Office and Riverside)? Does it want to preserve and celebrate its unique history and its built heritage? Do we want to retain and increase the number of unique businesses downtown?
This is a call to action to those with a positive outlook – to find others who share their vision of the type of downtown they want. Start figuring out a way to bring it about. The BIA has a Facebook page you can post to – find it at: www.facebook.com/OldTownKemptvilleBIA.
We publish a weekly newsletter, subscribe to it here: http://eepurl.com/bnqf85. Both will provide you with information about issues and events downtown. Start a conversation with a neighbour or friend.There are some things money can’t buy, and one of them is community. Community has to be built and built by participation.
This will be the last BIA article written by John Barclay for awhile. John has interrupted his work as Executive Director of the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area (BIA), for the time being, in order to run for a seat on the North Grenville Municipal Council.