While there are some challenges to be addressed, It appears as though Beaverton made a solid first impression on visitors.
The village was recently paired with Selwyn Township, near Peterborough, in the First Impressions Community Exchange, a provincial program that is designed to highlight the first impression a community conveys to visitors — including tourists, potential business investors and new residents.
Overall, the feedback received by members of council at Monday’s (Dec. 17) meeting of the planning and economic development committee was fairly positive.
“It’s been more positive than negative – that’s a win for the Beaverton community,” said Brock Township Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden.
“It’s a great Christmas present.”
Representatives from Selwyn spent about four hours in Beaverton back in October, chatting with local residents in addition to visiting businesses and local landmarks.
“Residents spoke very highly about the area, particularly the fairgrounds,” said Meaghan Larocque, special project co-ordinator with Selwyn Township, in a presentation to Township councillors.
The downtown core was also a highlight for the visiting contingent.
“Very surprised by the amount of green space in downtown Beaverton,” Larocque said, also noting that the downtown core is “very clean” and “very walkable.”
“There’s a wide variety of services and shops available in the downtown core,” added Kari Partridge, Selwyn Township’s economic development officer.
While the pair did address the vacant storefronts in the downtown core, they described many of the occupied buildings as “fresh” and “welcoming.”
“It’s clear that shopkeepers take pride in their stores,” Partridge said.
Another positive, according to the visitors, is Lakeview Manor.
“The long-term care home…looked awesome,” Larocque said.
While much of the visit was positive, the group did highlight some areas of improvement.
“Sidewalks a few blocks from the downtown core could use some attention,” Partridge said.
She also noted that visitors also had a hard time tracking down washrooms that were open to the public.
“While washrooms are available, it was hard to find one that is open,” Partridge said, referencing the harbour washrooms that were closed for the season during the group’s visit.
They were also a little perplexed about the garden that was built back in 2017 as part of the ‘Harbour of the Future’ project.
“We did get a lot of questions about the orange benches,” Larocque said.
“We weren’t sure if it was a memorial garden because they kind of look like caskets.”
That comment drew a round of laughter from members of council and a few of the folks sitting in the gallery.
“By no means is that a memorial garden,” said Mayor Bath-Hadden.
She continued by saying that the garden is one of the issues at the harbour that the Township needs to address, along with washrooms and parking.
“You’ve raised a lot of issues that we’re grateful for,” said Mayor Bath-Hadden.
“This is a great opportunity for both municipalities to learn from each other,” added Ward 1 Councillor Mike Jubb.
This marks the fourth time that Brock Township has participated in the FICE program, with visits to Beaverton in 2005, Sunderland in 2011 and Cannington in 2015.
“It’s a really good way to get other people’s opinion on how your town looks,” said Regional Councillor Ted Smith.