Small towns — gotta love them. I read in the Dec. 18 edition of The NEWS that the PDBA and the Craig Street Merchants were forgoing Christmas cheer and warm fuzzy feelings for political power politics this year. The city has opted to look the other way and pretend all is well in Whoville too.
As a fairly recent addition to the local population (two-plus years), I’m amazed at how well small town attitudes work against the very ideas its citizens think they want to foster.
Craig Street vendors are pretty clear that doing some basic beautifying of the area will improve business and pedestrian traffic. The Parksville Downtown Business Association says it doesn’t provide funds for that sort of project, and the City of Parksville says the two groups should fight it out and make their own decisions. And so it goes round and round while nothing of any value gets done.
What gets lost in all this bickering is that Parksville is a nondescript little clutch of buildings on a secondary highway on an island that attracts a huge number of tourists each year, mainly due to the fabulous beach they’re blessed to have on their front doorstep. We’ve been relying for decades on the beach to attract business, instead of actively working to make the town itself a primary destination.
I can think of several towns that have had the foresight and the political savvy to spruce up their shopping areas with results that were nothing short of amazing. Consider places like Port Moody and West Vancouver or Ladysmith. They’re relatively small towns with a busy through road for a main street. They have vibrant shopping, restaurants and more importantly, look well maintained and attractive. They make you want to stop and have a look around. They did it with vision and integrated planning and a sense of purpose. They didn’t spend their time squabbling about who does what and they didn’t sing the “It’s not my responsibility” song. They got together to look at the bigger picture and the results were wonderful.
Parksville is ripe for some thoughtful and visionary planning. Are we forever going to condemn ourselves to petty bickering about pennies while the Brinks truck rolls on to somewhere more receptive? Craig Street could be vibrant and a lot more attractive than it is presently. It has a great summer market and a distinct feel of its own. It’s right next to the beach we’re so dependent upon, so what’s wrong with starting there?
We have the power to position the town itself as a ‘must see’ destination on this beautiful island. Wake up everyone — we have the chance to effect real change and better times for our business community and our residents. What are we waiting for?