This is an open letter to the Downtown Association, Mayor Provenzano, City Councilors, MP, MPP, and last but not least, you the readers and citizens of Sault Ste. Marie.
If you have followed my writing over the years, you will know that as much as I dish it out, I certainly will not be bias, and I will give credit where it is due to the same person/groups that I had criticized a decision in the past. I believe this should be a standard as people in positions of power have much on their plate, and they can’t please everyone.
In the past I have been critical about things like restrictive patio by-laws, splash pad location, lethargy in leaving Christmas flags up on Queen street poles well into the summer months, and last but not least, the removal of the Norgoma which had potential if marketed and invested into properly. Hey, I lost all of these personal battles but life moves on.
Now let’s start the celebration of sorts and give credit for more than a few great initiatives that the city and the Downtown Association has done in the past few years. Let’s start with Gore street ; although, it hasn’t started to bustle with millions of dollars of commerce, there is a healthy look (healthier than before) about it with the restructured roads, sidewalks, and crosswalks. It will definitely take about 5 more years for the transition to be complete, but the ball is rolling. Sticking in the central area, the pump/bike track at Esposito Park is brilliant and during my walks in the area, I see it is utilized all summer by our youth which keeps them out of trouble and getting the much needed exercise that social media and gaming has stolen from our kids over the years.
Now, let’s take a look at how Queen and Bay St has drastically changed over the last year or so. You have those beautiful murals on the side of some buildings, you have patios popping up everywhere as the previous bi laws have been amended to come into the 21st century, you have street parties and the list goes on.
Bay St is another beauty with the reduction to two lanes and in installment of bike and walking paved areas. Although some will complain about the congestion after a Greyhound game, concert, or major event at the GFL ; the bottom line is maintaining the cost to pave and repave X amount of extra real estate each year or so adds up to huge expenses out of our restricted budget. There are not 19 000 people leaving the arena, there are about 4000 on a good night and so there is not need for four lanes. Instead of taking 15 minutes to get home, you may have to add on another 10 minutes or so. It’s not that big of a deal and council did the right thing in my opinion. If there should be 4 lanes anywhere, it should be a city by-law that Tim Hortons has 4 lanes and servers bring the coffee out on roller skates. Obviously I am kidding about that, but vehicles backed up 10 deep down Brock is more of an annoyance than an extra 10 minutes to get home.
In addition to the above, the new bike lanes and walking paths, greenery etc will continue to add beauty to our downtown core where tourists will now be guided to take a nice leisurely stroll and drive and circle back down Queen where smart marketing will draw them in. This is very important as we all know that it’s only a matter of time, that the Station Mall will cease to exist. It’s not only the greed of the property owners with the outrageous rents they charge, but it is the fact that walk in stores are slowly dwindling in numbers due to online shopping.
A little off topic now, but I would not forgive myself for not commending the City, Council, and Terry Sheehan, and Ross Romano, for their tireless efforts to bring us much needed industry with the plant that Noront will be building to not only give our kids a place to work and receive decent pay, but to keep us from suffering everytime layoffs at either Algoma or Tenaris happens. The more industry we have, the better it is for the mom and pop shops to survive during these times. Yes there are a handful of people that are against the plant, but as Mayor Provenzaqno said ; if the environmental assessment turns out to not be favourable for our community, he would not be supporting it at that stage as he lives here and has kids that live here. I doubt that the Mayor and council and everyone involved went into this blindly and would put their own families in a risky situation. Anyway, agree or disagree with me ; the fact is the above actions by our elected ones has to be given credit, because it is due.
What’s next ? Well I think the city should be thinking of the tourist angle a bit more as the Station Mall is an eyesore now, the train station thanks to forward thinking Tony Porco will be moving to old St Mary’s Paper property to add to his vision, which has already taken leaps and bounds with a fine restaurant, ice cream shop, sportsbar and event centre. As I said previously, it is only a matter of time before a hotel is built on that property. Things are shifting and we need to capitalize I think a great idea and a no brainer would be for someone to step up and bring back the Boat Tours from the Canadian side. For the life of my, I can’t understand how we let that fall through the cracks. We are situated on THE WATER !! The rumor was that the tours could not sustain themselves monetarily, and if this is true, someone should have lost their job. There is no way that a dinner cruise, booze cruise, or a leisurely site seeing cruise would not make money during our prime tour season. Why not market it with the Agawa Canyon Train ? What about marketing it with hotel packages. We have a beautiful waterfront and to witness it from the St Mary’s would be another Kodak moment for tourists to come back and rave about our beauty.
I also would support some sort of trolley car, Double Decker bus, rickshaw, or even a horse and buggy to give tourists a glimpse of parts of our city. They could start downtown and after a few stops such as the Old Stone House, Bushplane Museum etc, it could make it’s way out to St Joes Island for some beauty. I understand the rickshaw guy would be tired, but he would certainly get his exercise.
Anyway, these are just a couple ideas and I have a feeling this city is going to be a game player in the not too distant future. One last thought ; what about a MONORAIL ?????? Anyway, to those that have contributed to the ongoing transformation of the Sault ; give yourselves a pat on the back.