I am writing in response to “the Elephant in the room” and its role in livening up and beautifying downtown. (Revitalizing downtown haas to deal with the elephane in the room, C.R. Mirror, May 11, 2022)
I firmly believe that we need to invest more into the aesthetics of our downtown core. I believe that public art, events, and visual improvements can make a huge impact on our community.
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time downtown. With the Walk with Me Project, I stood downtown in Spirit Square, rain or shine, all day, for many many days. I got to know the people who live there and frequent there. I met the people who came to participate in the audio journeys and those who came down to learn more about our community.
I saw so much beauty in our downtown core during this project. In our downtown, there are incredible artists, businesses, services, and people, down there almost every day, who are, in some way or another, making it a better place for all of us. During the Walk with Me project, there were people from different parts of town, walks of life, and who hold different world views, I saw them connect, get to know each other, chat, and eat together. There is so much beauty in our downtown if you open your mind to it, and look for the possibility and for the connections, rather than looking solely at what is wrong with it.
That being said, no doubt, the downtown has problems, like many downtowns across the country. Some of these problems are inherent to the urban planning decisions that were made many decades ago. The prioritization of low-density buildings that block ocean views, the abundant accommodation of private vehicles, and the dedication to the strip mall that emerged in the 1960s. Some of these things are characteristic of many small North American towns and are certainly not unique to us. We also have crime, poverty, substance use, and mental health challenges, this is also not unique to us. These are challenges faced by many, many Canadian individuals and communities.
But, when we have our leadership throw up their hands, and hesitate to support positive action and potential solutions that could bring out the beauty in our community, that is unique to us – and that is a problem.
I feel sad that our city council continues to publically draw attention to the bad, the scary, and the negative with our downtown. Our current leadership perpetuates and amplifies this negative narrative, and that compounds the problems in our downtown. When we draw attention to only the negative and hopeless views and commentary on our downtown, over and over again, it keeps even more people away from downtown. It drives out hope, progress, and investment. It makes it hard to attract locals to patronize small businesses and it makes it hard for tourism businesses to attract visitors. It shows that our own leadership does not have faith in our community to come together and make downtown better for everyone.
I think we need positive leadership, we need leadership that brings our community together, tries to see the good, and tries to make things better. I don’t think we need to continually focus on the bad in downtown – we can all see the bad- what we need to do, is focus on finding the bright spots and amplifying them – and trust me, there are some really bright spots in our downtown, we just need leaders who will build them up, rather than tear them down.
All the best,
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gwen Donaldson is a candidate for the fall Campbell River city council election.