Saturday, June 23, 2012

ReThink London: ReThink Suburbia

The next day I saw a young woman with two children using the new, little park.

I realized something this evening while playing with my granddaughter in a new playground in a new subdivision on the edge of Byron in southwest London. I like suburbia. I mean I really like living in suburban Byron.

Returning in the family car from the restaurant, Fiona spotted the new playground and immediately wanted me to stop so she could do some serious playing. I stopped. My wife relaxed on a park bench while I watched over the kid. At 33 months, she needs supervision.

The playground is on a hill overlooking the shopping area going up at the corner of Colonel Talbot Road and Southdale Road West. I looked at the stores, banks and restaurant, all bright, new and spiffy. I listened to the sound of the constant traffic passing just metres to the south of the park. I watched my granddaughter playing, I noticed suburbanite couples strolling along Southdale and I felt the cool, evening breeze swirling about the park.

I thought to myself. This is pleasant. This is good. Despite all the recent talk about downtown, I realized I don't care as much about the state of downtown London as I do about my suburban Byron neigbourhood.

Soho homes with a large apartment building looming behind.
I found myself thinking about Mayor Joe Fontana. Old Joe talks a good line about downtown London and how important it is to him. But old Joe doesn't live in downtown London. Old Joe doesn't even live in London. He lives in Arva immediately north of the city. Joe, some might argue, lives in exurbia: a residential area outside the city, beyond its suburbs, that is often inhabited chiefly by well-to-do families. 

And I thought, I bet Joe loves his neighbourhood. I bet Joe, as much as he is concerned about the city core, would never give up his home in Arva to live in a downtown apartment in SoHo.

The Storybook Gardens ice skating pad needs more skaters.
Maybe ReThink London should be rethinking all of London. Oh, they give lip service to thinking about the city as a whole but it is the beach at The Forks of the Thames that gets the publicity --- a beach that isn't even there yet. The huge ice skating loop in Storybook Gardens gets no mention. The skating loop is there and it is begging for attention. Something must be done to increase public interest or this wonderful rink may close.

London has a ski hill. I think this is really cool. London kids need to go no further than the southwest end of the city to find a rather decent hill complete with high speed lifts. The recent warm, short winters are threatening the survival of the hill.

A not-for-profit operation, run with the benefit of numerous volunteers, the Boler Mountain ski hill is a big plus for the city and not a huge drain on the taxpayers. It has given so much to the community during its many decades of operation. Maybe it is time for the community to give a little back. Maybe the city could find a way to cut the ski hill's water consumption bills. Making all that snow is tough, and expensive.

I don't want to be too tough on downtown. When I first moved to London, I lived within almost a stone's throw of The Forks of the Thames. If, living in Bryon, I must support a beach on the edge of the Thames in the core of the city, then I would like to see the folk living in the former Petersville (my old neighbourhood downtown) supporting my Storybook Gardens skating pad and my Boler Mountain ski hill.

I wrote this post before attending the ReThink London event today. I'm beginning to have some good feelings for our city planners. I'm realizing my beef is more with folk like the mayor or reporters like Randy Richmond at The London Free Press. Richmond's reports are very poetic and read very well. He's a good writer. But, it is style over substance when it comes to Richmond's reports.

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