More work but good start for our 'sense of place' 0
Once the site of protests, the Hastings Highlands Centre was full of forward thinking residents, municipal and cultural workers who gathered to take in presentations from Bancroft, Hastings Highlands and keynote speaker, Gord Hume.
The evening was designed to compliment and expand work that has been done on our cultural planning process and to emphasize the need to turn our rural challenges into cultural opportunities.
Speaking for Hastings Highlands, CAO Craig Davidson treated the crowd of 100 to his dry wit as he shared the history of the centre that hosted the event.
It was not an easy path.
"Vision is the catalyst of future action," Davidsion said, "With our Mayor Bloom we're still moving the vision forward."
The municipality has put a strong focus on culture and programming and with their build they created an energetic space for municipal staff, council, a gym for local students, the community and a library that boasts a café, a fireplace and couches.
"Each month the calendar is full," Davidson said as he noted a slide of the recreational schedule. "There has been a 350 per cent increase in library memberships."
The Hastings Highlands project has caught the eye of ministry officials as well as countless other communities who are now coming for site visits in an effort to re-create the successful model in their communities.
Bancroft Train Station Restoration Project
Not yet complete, there was a presentation from Chris Drost from the Bancroft Railway Station project. As Drost explained, the project is not yet complete and more money is needed to finish the work. Once opened, the space will house the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Office, the Bancroft Mineral Museum and there will be learning space.
The project budget was estimated to be $889,000 and Drost says $405,000 came through grants. Drost did not have the final figures of total community donations, donated materials or how much more money is needed to complete the project.
Drost said the project was born out of a conversation relating to the Asset Based Community Development model where community members gather to figure out what they want to achieve and then they share resources to complete the task.
"We're not done and we have a way to go yet," Drost said.
Hume shares message
Speaking to an eager audience, Gord Hume launched into his presentation explaining that we live in a very competitive municipal world.
Noting that forestry and mining are no longer major resources and that tourism needs more development the message was about the work that needs to be done.
"You have some challenges ahead- the fact that you are here shows you are ready to face those challenges," Hume said. "Your great advantage is quality of life."
Hume suggests that place making is key. The more creative and inviting we can make our spaces, the more creative and inviting people we will attract.
"Hope is not an economic development strategy," Hume explained.
And the important message of the night was delivered firmly- "culture is not a frill," Hume said.
"Fun and appealing people want to be attracted to a place that wants them," Hume said as slides played in the background that ironically featured much of the work the former Coe Hill Revitalization committee had completed under the direction of former CAO Christine FitzSimons.
FitzSimons was fired by Wollaston council early in the year in a move that resulted in an outpouring of support for her work from the community.
With the audience hooked on his words, Hume drew the crowd closer and gave a reason to keep working hard to build the spaces that will attract the people that will make our region unique and sustainable.
"Don't replicate what others have done," Hume cautioned. "Find what you do that is unique and make that work."
From main street development to farmers' markets, Hume says make it happen- no matter what. And Hume says to get the message through to municipal councils that this matters.
As a parting note Hume suggested that we need to do a better job as working as a region.
For the organizers in Hastings Highlands who pulled the event together with the help of few municipal partners, the message is one that needs to be heard.
It is a competitive municipal world. Culture is not a frill that can be chopped and we need to work together to build our communities and look at how we're doing on a regional scale.