Cornwall ON – We’re proud to welcome Gabriel Riviere-Reid as a new columnist on The Cornwall Free News. It’s amazing when you can reach out and find bright articulate people, and we want to give them a platform because they are our present, and our future.
Their voices count and matter as I’m sure many of you, our viewers agree!
I’ll let Gabriel take over from here:
Good day to you all!
It is with great pleasure that I am writing my very first Cornwall Free News article.
I have read the CFN from very close to it’s inception, and have seen it grow it over the past few years. And so I was quite honoured when I was asked to contribute to it’s further growth. So a big thank you to Jamie Gilcig, and of course to all of you reading!
What a way to start the New Year! Not to mention a new decade! This time of year has always been a time of renewal and cleansing, a shedding of bad habits, and wrong choices. And that’s why I love winter. Mother Earth rests and heals itself, getting ready to begin the cycle of life again. It’s very metaphorical for what our fair City is currently going through.
Much has been said about Cornwall’s transition from a Factory Town to 21st Century Seaway City, and we continue to see it‘s reality. With many of our large manufacturers closing down or laying off workers, Cornwall seemed doomed. But the time of renewal is near. Over the past few years, Cornwall has continued to weather the storms of recession and global financial crisis. It has come out, battered and bruised, but still intact.
But there is much more work to be done. Spring has not yet arrived. And so for my first article for the Cornwall Free News, I’ve decided to list some things that I would like to see in my dear hometown, over the next year and the next decade.
1. An Arts Centre.
This has certainly been a hot-button topic recently. With the Benson Centre near completion, many local artists of many mediums have expressed an interest in a similar structure for the use of their talents.
And though finances for such a project seems scarce, we need only look at past fundraising projects that helped create the Aquatic and Benson Centres.
The formation of the Cornwall Cultural Committee is a good start, as our area’s talented bohemians need to get together and use their gifts to gather money for this important project. But of course our dear elected officials need to participate as well; Not just in terms of verbal support, but in participation and yes, funding. Such an investment in the arts will only benefit Cornwall.
When choosing a place to live, many, especially youth, examine a city’s cultural aspects. A vibrant artistic community is one step in retaining youth from our area and attracting them from other places.
2. Commitment to Public Transit
Transit is always a controversial topic. Should it be completely self-sufficient financially, or should the tax-payers be asked to fund it? Well of course the answer lies in-between the two extremes. An effort to balance budgets should be made, but Transit is an essential social service, and thus should receive support from government.
Cornwall Transit has really improved in recent years, after being stripped and abandoned by previous City Councils. But improvements can always be made. Winter is a difficult time for our city’s fine bus drivers, as inclement weather forces them to go off schedule, sometimes dramatically. Perhaps adding an extra bus or two at peak hours for busy routes, especially during blizzards/snowstorms, would help.
We also need to sell our fine service to the community. I will not hesitate to tell anyone that Cornwall Transit operator’s are the best in the business. They are friendly, helpful, and excel at what they do.
And so it’s important to market this fact to people who have no idea what a pleasant experience riding the bus can be! Reaching out to the area High Schools again would be a great start. I’m sure that losing the School Board contract was a large blow to the service operation budget.
More ‘Free Bus Days’ scattered throughout the year would also prove beneficial. ESPECIALLY during special events, such as Lift-Off, Winterfest, an election day and so on. And how about an expansion of ‘Christmas Light Tours’ during December, and a shuttle to Upper Canada Village’s Alight-At-Night?
3. More Festivals
Cornwall Lift-Off continues to be a huge success, providing quality, affordable entertainment for local residents, while also attracting tourists. But it is only for 3 days a year. We need more.
Not necessarily more Lift-off, but other events that attract people, both citizens of Cornwall and other municipalities, to our downtown.
As a child, I really enjoyed Corn Fest. Sure it was a little…(dare I say) corny, but it was fun to see our city buses dressed up like farm animals, and Pitt Street full of vendors and entertainment! I also remember the days when Winterfest was a truly epic event. Ice sculptures lining the downtown, giant snow mazes, a variety of entertainment, it really gave people a reason to enjoy Downtown Cornwall.
In recent years, Winterfest has been reincarnated, and it, along with the Parade of Nations, the Sounds of Buskerville and Waterfest, have been the beneficiaries of much hard work and organization. But we need more support for these events that boast so much potential! Both with funding and volunteer work, the citizens and elected officials of our area need to step up and help these festivals achieve their possible greatness. Again, it can only benefit tourism and the Downtown BIA.
4. Fair and Concise Waterfront Development Plan
The St Lawrence River may be the best resource that we have. We need to continue developing the land along it, in a way that attracts residents and tourists while remaining accessible to all. There are going to be many suggestions: Condo’s, a casino, etc…But it’s going to take much thought, consideration and planning to maximize what we get from out Waterfront. I certainly don’t presume to have the answers, but this task could make or break the city, and be the defining factor in whether we achieve our stated goal of retaining and attracting youth.
5. A University
Education continues to increase in importance in our society. Our city wants to attract and retain youth. So continued expansion of St Lawrence College and the eventual founding of a University makes perfect sense. What better way to achieve the aforementioned goals? Of course, it is only the first step. The previously mentioned development in terms of the arts, transit, culture and the waterfront will be so key in making Cornwall University a valued destination for students. And of course an investment in terms of bringing new-age jobs in the technology, entertainment and green sectors will give these students jobs to graduate into and remain in Cornwall.
BONUS 6. Better Self Esteem
One more thing: Cornwall needs a better self-image. Before we can advertise our benefits to the world, we need to see them at home. Too many people trash this town. One day in a local grocery store, I overheard a woman telling a friend that best thing she could hope for her children is that they don’t return to Cornwall. What a horrible thought. I think it says more about the person that hates their city and yet chooses to live there without attempting to make it a better place than it does about the City itself.
Cornwall isn’t perfect, as I’ve said before, A LOT of work needs to be done to grow the City. But complaining about and insulting our hometown won’t help We all have a responsibility in how Cornwall turns out!
And that about wraps things up. I’ll end with a paraphrasing from Monty Python’s Flying Circus:
“If you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I’ve enjoyed it twice as much as you!”