Friends of Downtown

Published in the North Grenville Times (July 5th, 2017)

On June 28th 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.

The keynote speaker was Peter Kenyon, a self described “social capitalist and 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 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 it’s unique history and it’s 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 here. We publish a weekly newsletter, subscribe to it here. 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.

Stop waiting for someone or something else to make things better. Let’s GitR Dun!

Author: John Barclay

A graduate of York University’s Film Production Program, John has produced more than 250 corporate and educational productions since winning the Canadian Independent Short Film Showcase award in 1983. In 2009, after over 30 years as the principal of Triune Productions Inc. a Toronto-based independent film, video and multimedia production company, he moved to Oxford Mills and immediately became involved in the community. With a belief that effective media can be a catalyst for social change, John has produced many videos for local community groups. With his fundraising and sponsorship experience in both the public and private sectors, John has developed winning proposals for the Kemptville Farmers’ Market, the 2014 Dandelion Festival and Triune Arts, a charity for which he acts as Executive Director.

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