The first few months of 2018 have been a whirlwind for the Town of Ladysmith. Staff, council and community have been very busy with multiple initiatives, and we have received a wealth of good news in the form of funding announcements and progress on so many major projects. After a long and gloomy winter, it's encouraging to know that along with spring flowers, other seeds of prosperity and success are blooming in our community.
All of the work that goes into making these positive things happen is not new. Many hours over weeks, months and even years are invested to deliver these projects to a successful completion. It's the result of a dedicated team coming together to make good things happen. Working with our Stz'uminus partners, community groups, service clubs, business owners and a seemingly endless number of volunteers, we are able to consistently put our best foot forward to all of those who would invest in the future of Ladysmith.
Whether our community partners, other government agencies, or private sector investors, it is important to recognize that it's the cumulative impact of all these efforts that leads to success. Creating a good plan is the foundation. Funding is awarded based on that solid foundation. It then takes a dedicated and motivated staff to shift priorities and make the work happen. We have much to celebrate in Ladysmith, and it's with heartfelt thanks to every one of you who are dedicated to bettering our community one initiative (and sometimes many) at a time. I am so thankful for our entire Ladysmith team.
Recently, the Town participated in a Government of Canada announcement regarding removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from the Ladysmith harbour. I was pleased to learn that Transport Canada intended to hold its Canada-wide announcement at our local Ladysmith Maritime Society Community Marina. I was thankful to introduce and stand alongside federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau as he announced that Ladysmith would receive the first round of funding to remove several abandoned vessels from our shoreline.
As we watch the clean-up work unfold, it strengthens our resolve to continue to push forward with removing the remaining abandoned and derelict vessels in our harbour. It also reminds me of the good work done by so many. Our dedicated MP Sheila Malcolmson, previous Town Councils, Rod Smith of the Ladysmith Maritime Society and so many others have investigated, lobbied, protested and done whatever they could to compel the federal government to take action to help clean up our waters. We have taken a good first step and will press on until the beauty and health of our harbour is restored.
The Town was also asked to organize another good news funding announcement, this time aimed at the revitalization of the historic Machine Shop building. Thanks in part to nearly $1.8 million in federal Gas Tax funding, the building, a central anchor within the Arts and Heritage Hub of the new concept plan for Ladysmith's waterfront area, will undergo significant architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, accessibility and energy efficiency upgrades. The waterfront planning process, completed with input from many members of our community and in partnership our Stz'uminus neighbours and friends, played an instrumental role in helping to secure this funding.
It was rewarding to have Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selena Robinson and our MLA Doug Routley here to make the announcement with us and recognize our work. It was also moving to hear the excitement from the many residents and stakeholders who attended the event. So many of these folks are working hard to help our waterfront area thrive. This project is a great first step toward realizing the vision of a vibrant and sustainable waterfront area.
Some of you may have read in the Chronicle or watched the CTV Vancouver Island news segment that compared the beleaguered former composting operation at the Public Works yard to our new, state of the art bio-solids facility on Thicke Road. This facility has turned what CTV-VI called the 'Ladysmith Linger' into the sweet smell of success, based on virtually no smell at all. I couldn’t be more proud of this world class facility and the excellent results. Ladysmith is now being recognized regionally and even internationally for the combination of effective innovations included in our Wastewater Treatment Plant and the accompanying bio-solids facility. This is a key deliverable on our strategic goals around infrastructure renewal and long term sustainability.
The 'Compost Conundrum' - as I called it - was maybe the most difficult and unanticipated challenge that emerged this term. However, in the end, this project has turned into one of the most rewarding I have been involved in. Not only did we ensure Ladysmith's independence as we treat our own wastewater from end to end (no pun intended); it also demonstrated our ability to come together as a community and deal with tough issues in a thoughtful, respectful and ultimately effective way.
We have also been reaching out and asking residents and businesses what they think about a number of issues. Do residents support permitting garden suites/coach houses in areas of Ladysmith outside the Old Town core? How can we maintain our high standards for quality development while improving service to existing and potential investors? How can we ensure local youth are healthy, happy and engaged? How can we help better manage our watersheds and protect our drinking water? These are all important discussions and gathering feedback from the community helps us to make informed decisions as we move forward.
Much has been done to enhance our community connections over the last few years. We have promoted deeper investment and involvement from our many community groups and all of our citizens. We have developed and strengthened partnerships with a broad group of community stakeholders. The once new tools of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are now part of the Town's standard practice to share information and broadcast town meetings. New engagement platforms like PlaceSpeak and other survey tools are capturing more input than ever to help shape the future of Ladysmith. All of these new engagement initiatives act as a complement to traditional sources of information, including our in-depth website, traditional media, newsletters, open houses and focussed community engagement sessions. There's always more that we can do and we are all dedicated to engaging as many of you as possible in the future success of Ladysmith. The more we connect as a community, the more successful we will be.
Signs of spring renewal are indeed very evident throughout Ladysmith and maybe most noticeable throughout our downtown area. News that the Travellers Hotel has been sold and will be redeveloped, the sale and start of improvements to the building that was formerly home to Barb's Kitchen, and the sold sign in front of the former RCMP station on Belaire (or Bel Aire? Belair? – there’s a story there) are just a few encouraging signs of our growing economic momentum. The high commercial vacancy rate of just a few years ago has been replaced with a buzz of activity throughout downtown. This energy has entrepreneurs seeking insight on where the perfect location for their venture might be, new and existing building owners are investing in upgrades, and several existing business owners have remodelled or expanded their offering. Welcoming investment in our community has been a priority, and I am thrilled to see that our Town is increasingly being recognized as a sound place to do business.
As we enjoy the spring season, I encourage you start at one end of town, stroll through and maybe back again. Visit Aggie Hall (which will soon have additional parking and a new natural play space - watch for that!) and check out the sign at the hall entrance that shares a bit of its history. Snap a photo in front of the 49th Parallel markers or "Stop of Interest" sign in the plaza at the roundabout. Revisit the Heritage Walk along 'Canada's Great Street for 2017' and see it all again for the first time. Pop into the museum and dig into the roots of this amazing place. Stop in at the shops and see what's new. Grab a snack, sit on the rainbow benches and enjoy a taste of home. Walk slowly. Stay a while.
Head down Roberts (past some eats and antiques) and across Esplanade (TCH) by the arboretum to Transfer Beach Park and visit the Salish Wind canoe, our Canada 150 legacy project in partnership with the Stz'uminus First Nation. Read about its significance to our history and our shared future. Stroll back along Transfer Beach, through the amphitheater and down to Slack Point (and imagine its future as a beautiful and fully accessible park). Making your way north, enjoy a few moments at the Ladysmith Maritime Society welcome centre, visit the floating museum and check out the restored heritage boats. If the Café is open when you go, maybe you’ll need another little snack or coffee drink. Caramel Macchiato please!
Head up the stairs to the Art Centre Gallery and see what beautiful exhibits are waiting to be discovered inside. Marvel at the Maritime Heritage Centre, with so much history brought to life that it defies the small space it occupies. See all the progress that has been made by the Industrial Heritage Preservation Society on the Humdurgin, the Loci, and so much more! Maybe if you’re lucky, John Marston (Qup'u'luq) will have his door open. If you ask nicely, he might even show you his latest project and share its story.
Take a look around and see it with fresh eyes but with perspective and purpose. Through challenges and success, we all continue to grow and succeed together as a community. There are many reasons to be proud of Ladysmith, and it's fulfilling to be able to share and celebrate the ongoing work of our community and its many supporters. It’s all of us working together that makes this place so special.
As a favourite childhood character once said, "I love it when a plan comes together". With so many in our community contributing to this shared success, Ladysmith truly has its own "A-Team". How can we not be successful?!
You can visit www.ladysmith.ca and the Town of Ladysmith on Facebook and Twitter or my personal Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds at Aaron Stone - Working together (@solidplans). If you're not already, get connected… and get involved!