As many of you know, I spend a lot of time perusing the local blogosphere, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and general comment sections of all types of local social media.
There is a common thread and well used comment (complaint) by many of the great unwashed masses of this town. It’s a complaint that seems to be unheard by those we continue to vote into Council. In fact its not just a local complaint. I have had the good fortune to have lived in a few different places around the world so I have accumulated many friends and have family that visit from various places. From these visitor’s I always get asked the same question “Where can we go and have a beer/meal/coffee on the water in Collingwood?” I say “Nowhere unless it’s from a brown paper bag/KFC Bucket/Tim Horton’s cup on a park bench” This is usually greeted with “What?? You’re joking. What’s wrong with this town?” I normally reply “Where do I start…….”
I have never visited, let alone lived in a town that is so disconnected from its waterfront. Especially one that has a history and its very existence is because of its location on the beautiful pristine waters of Georgian Bay.
I have pondered this situation many times since arriving here. I have asked why this situation exists of people that are newcomers like myself and people whose family have been here many generations. I have never received a plausible answer back. My thought is that the folks that lived here prior to the shipyards closing, were so traumatized by that closure, that for many years they couldn’t even look at the waterfront let alone develop it. Blue Mountain reinvented itself, but the small town mice (sorry Chris but it had to be said) that have ran this town ever since, have not looked at the bigger picture. Even now in an election year I have not heard one person, vying for our votes, even broach the subject of our under utilized waterfront, an issue that is so important to many people that live in Collingwood. Those same candidates talk a lot about economic development, I suggest that economic development starts by utilizing one of the greatest assets that this town has to offer, namely its proximity to the waters of Georgian Bay. It all starts when we make Collingwood a place that people want to visit and stay, not just to stop and get groceries or gas on the way too or from the cottage or the Village at Blue. This will not be an easy process. It could start by voting in a new dynamic council that will listen to what you want from your town rather than the special interests of a few. A classic example of this is Assaff’s Mountain View Town Centre development which serves no one other than the needs of Assaff, a multi national bank and a national pharmacy chain. A development by the way that by its intended use and existence, looks away from the waterfront rather than being part of it. Think about it, who cares what you look at when you are going to do your banking or picking up a prescription? This could have been a gateway to a new vibrant waterfront commercial development.
Part of the current Asset Management Plan should include how we best manage one of this towns major (and dwindling) assets – its waterfront.