In this issue, Mayor Mood speaks about downtown rejuvenation and how volunteers make all the difference. From Communities in Bloom awards, to the Facade Improvement Program, to the recent Urban Design award - all of our collective efforts have made us much more than just a pretty face.
We’re more than just a pretty face
I admittedly did a happy dance at the recent announcement that Fathom Studios had won a national award for the work completed in our downtown: the “Small or Medium Community Urban Design Award – Award of Excellence”. It's a big deal. Such awards are the culmination of intentional focus and deserve to be celebrated fully and enthusiastically. My toes they are a-tapping!
It's not about the award.
It's about the journey to the award. I feel strongly that it's also about the forces that have tried to take us down, being boldly put in their place by our astounding resiliency as a community. This time we bounced back in full technicolor.
There is more to do to build us into the community everyone can cheer about.
Social issues including housing must continue to be in the forefront. Accessibility's goal date needs to be reached. Infrastructure projects must continue. As we make our way there, it's important to celebrate our milestones.
As a child, a trip “uptown” was an experience we six
Emin kids got excited about. Mom would put the two youngest in the pram, two of us would hold the handle on the left of the pram, two would hold the right. Mom's orders were clear: do not let go. Why? Because the town was that busy. It was elbowto-elbow people. Yarmouth was fun, busy and vibrant.
But things change and, alas, the hustle and bustle of our downtown slowly ceased. No more trips to the Royal Store or shoes from the Credit Store or books from McKinley's. While we manoeuvered our way through many changes, 2009 was poised to take us out. Tally a downturn in the fishery, global economic change and the never-to-beforgotten removal of our international ferry link, and we had a mess on our hands. We were in a downward spiral that many said we'd never recoup from. But Yarmouthians had different plans.
An army of individuals, businesses and organizations came together to turn the community around. An announcement that the ferry would return was a much-needed infusion of hope. Included in the work to be done was a dusting off of the Downtown Blueprint, a plan that had tremendous potential but had sadly spent years on a shelf gathering dust.
A downtown is the heart of a community. Like the human body, if the heart fails, everything else does too. Communities that not only survive, but thrive, have robust downtowns. Taking the time to ensure the heart is healthy is important and in 2013 we set about doing just that.
The blueprint clearly stated colour was needed. Our façade program, run by a society of volunteers, played such a huge part in turning our town around, the program itself deserves an award. It was never about the paint. It was about setting the table for businesses to open and thrive. No one wants to open a business near buildings that look like they need to be demolished. Paint and flower boxes changed all that. Where once we had one name-brand coffee shop, we now have many unique options. Where a set of three buildings sat in utter disrepair, we now have the famous Triplets, as they are affectionately called, thanks to a courageous, visionary business owner. Today, the Triplets are celebrated throughout Canada and the U.S.
Our seniors would have taxis pick up their prescriptions. The downtown was too ominous for comfort. Now? They drop off their own prescriptions and gather with their friends in our local coffee shops to catch up on the news and enjoy each other's company. As it should be. The inviting benches and chairs in our award-winning lobster cars provide a place to rest. Simple fixes with huge impact.
Our Communities in Bloom team ensures we are always a community in full bloom. In fact, they have won more awards than I have the space to note. The team set the example and the community started planting more flowers. Blooms line our main street thanks to our businesses. Our award-winning parks can't be beat thanks to our CiB and Parks teams.
Our active transportations trails are growing by the day, offering bikers, walkers, runners, young families and seniors a safe, wide space to get fresh air and exercise. Win-win.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, but what does all this mean? Simply put, what we've accomplished has poised the Town of Yarmouth, on a global scale, as a place people want to live, work, do recreation, retire and raise families. The missing amenities are returning, and we now feel inviting and welcoming. A job well done by all.
It's important that we are always growing. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding: for the first time in over 30 years, Yarmouth's population has increased. The over five per cent increase is not accidental. It was done by design. Hard work, creative minds, courageous councils, a forward-thinking community and the best staff and volunteers got us here. What a wonderful place to be.
The truth is, we are much more than just a pretty face and the world is taking notice!
From the Mayor’s Desk is a regular column from Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood that serves to inform residents and celebrate community.