It’s finally happening!

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It must be the summer season and seeing so many people out of doors, but there is something exciting in the air. With the trees in full bloom, the colourful flowers, green grass, families walking about, kids at the new splash pad, new playground equipment, boats on the water, and the movie being filmed around town, I am pumped about summer and all of the activities going on.

It helps that I am out on the Hub Trail with the grandchildren or riding around town on the bike, but it seems that everywhere I look, there are signs of progress. It is possible that I am looking for progress and that is why I am seeing it, but I have been noticing a ton of sold signs on houses, building of new facilities or structures, road improvements, remodelling of the exteriors of businesses, new business ventures, outdoor patios for dining and so much more.

This brings me hope that our community is headed in the right direction. I must admit that I had a moment of sadness, when I saw the waterfront without the MS Norgoma, for the first time. I know there are many naysayers; however, if nothing else, it had been a feature in many of my waterfront photos. My grandson loved visiting there and he would want to hang out near “the big boat” before and after he went to daycare. It does look fresh and clean, in the marina now, and I see the preparation for the new marina docks is underway.

I didn’t always have this feeling of hope. There were many years where I knew the potential of the place that I have called home for most of life but wasn’t seeing any action. I finally believe that we have tapped into what will work to keep us moving forward. I am seeing improved quality of life, on turbocharge.

I received confirmation this week when talking with someone who located here for work. This individual was from Southern Ontario and accepted a new position in town. Rent was significantly less, there was barely any commute to work, compared to almost two hours formerly spent in rush hour traffic, outdoor activities (that used to have to be scheduled on vacation time or long weekends) could now be done immediately after the end of the workday and it is a much slower and healthier pace of life.

With all of the improvements we are seeing in town, quality of life seems to finally be at the forefront. We can now walk or bike in a continuous loop of 24 kms around the central and east end of the city, our waterfront is so beautiful, especially between Whitefish Island and Bellevue Park, which is stunning and an amazing section to spend time with families or friends. (Just be careful of the new zip line type feature at the park, where kids are whizzing by, as I did learn the hard way not to wear a big floppy sunhat in the path of an oncoming hard plastic chair, containing children travelling along a steel rail.)

There are food, drinks, and snacks available for purchase at Bellevue Park, BeaverTails is now open (most days) near the Roberta Bondar Tent, we have Galaxy Cinemas and Station Mall for rainy days, the downtown Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, the Art Gallery of Algoma, Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site and locks, The Old Stone House, Station Mall, the Heritage Discovery Centre, the Sault Ste. Marie Museum, Gateway Casino, cool retail shops and great outdoor patios on Queen, Poutine Feast at Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, the Sault Asphalt Pump Track, the Boardwalk, the Hub Trail Festival, Mill Market, Machine Shop businesses, Entomica Insectarium, marinas, Canada Day Celebrations and fireworks on the waterfront, Rotaryfest, other events and festivals coming up, outdoor movies and concerts, the new Waterfront Adventure Centre and so much more.

This 7 km section of our community – a 25-minute bike ride, a 15-minute drive or a 70-minute walk, in the downtown area alone, with all of the above-mentioned activities, is all about the quality of life. Now that our municipal government is really seeing this and the positive impact all of these little things are having on tourists and locals, who are getting out and about and enjoying all of these new features, it will entice the research and development of additional funding opportunities from the provincial and federal governments as well, to assist in improving things around here.

With more film projects, the focus on attracting students and the expansion of college and university programs and partnerships, continuing to develop more sporting and recreational events, concerts, etc., there really is hope. The more we all start using these new facilities and getting out to enjoy what our community has to offer, the healthier we will be. I have seen more children out playing this summer than I have in decades. It is so nice to see.

I hope that this same effort is put into the west end of the city, developing more activities for youth, more functional green space, more playground equipment, more investment into improvements, community events and healthy activities, the extension of the Hub Trail to the west, and more effort and concentration into developing the full potential of the Northern Community Centre on Goulais Avenue and Pointe Des Chenes beach area. There needs to be a focused decision from politicians, stakeholders, and community members to come up with creative and outdoor ways in the west end that will actually attract children, youth and families to fully engage.

All children, youth and families deserve to have equal access and equal opportunities that are currently available in the central and east end of the city. Continued investment into a better quality of life and healthy, community, outdoor and active facilities for children and youth will contribute to a reduction in crime, a reduction in alcohol, drugs, and addictions, and safer neighbourhoods. I am so grateful for everything that has been done so far and I know it will come. Perhaps it is time to make areas worth visiting, in the west end.

All children deserve to experience childhood in a healthy, fun, engaging, and productive way. There are so many spots with untapped potential. Let’s identify, develop and expand on them. We need vision, ideas, imagination, resources, and dedication to the quality of life improvement for all young people here. It is how we build healthy teens and healthy adults. I would love family-focused venues in the west, with various activities to do, food options, a healthy environment, clean washrooms and places worth coming from all over town, to spend quality time.

Let’s research how many children live from central to west. Let’s figure out transportation options. Let’s put some things on the west map to balance out the services in the east. I know they are worth our effort, now and for our future. We are still naturally gifted, even if we are branding in a new direction. Let’s build on that.

This week, let’s all try to explore something we haven’t done before, in our beautiful community. We can be a tourist in our town. Rediscover all of the awesome things we have available at our doorstep. What new activity or place will you try this week? Let’s all enjoy the rest of our Canada Day weekend, be safe and have fun.

“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.” ~ Abigail Van Buren

This week’s photo slideshow: