My friend, Kelly Babcock, recently coined a phrase, “December, wearing October’s sweater” which I found delightfully apt for this year’s December. In some ways, this strangely balmy December reminds me of home. Home was Windsor, Ontario, Canada’s most southerly city. In fact, it is south of Detroit, Michigan. I grew up there, but I’ve spent most of my adult life somewhere else. Except, I could always go home. Still can. Two of my grown children live there with their families.
But sadly, it’s not the same. You can never cross the same river twice, it is said. I don’t know by who, but it is a well known “proverb”. And it is true. But right now something strikingly wrong is happening.
Windsor lies in Essex County which is fast becoming one big paved parking lot. The best farmland anywhere is being covered over, smothering the earth and heating up what was always a warm and fertile place. (well… for Canada, west of BC anyway)
And now the municipality, in what can only be viewed as a lapse in vision and foresight, has decided to allow a corporation called, Coco Paving Ltd. to build yet another retail plaza with a big box anchor right next to a tiny jewel of “wild” space, called “Ojibway Nature Centre and Park”. This park is already on a fairly busy stretch of highway and will be close to the new exit for the new International Bridge to the US (named Gordie Howe Bridge after the former hockey player).
But with a shopping centre right there beside it, this will be an extreme threat to the rare and endangered species who reside there, both flora and fauna.
Now this alone, would put up caution flags and herald all kinds of bells and whistles to any rational person. But, that is not the only reason to say “Whoa” to this project. There is another more “left-brained” reason.
So, I’ll tell you what it is, in a little bit. Better yet, I’ll share my friend Kathryn’s idea with you, keep reading…
Windsor has a high unemployment rate … especially since the automotive industry began to flee to places far afield of North America. Motor City isn’t just Detroit with it’s bankruptcy and unbalanced social fabric. Ford City was once a booming neighbourhood with many newcomers to Canada finding long-term and well-paying jobs there. Ford wasn’t the only employer though, but, that’s where my Dad worked, so I know it best.
Windsor’s municipal elected representatives think that one more retail therapy outlet will cure that problem.
It won’t. Retailers themselves have told us that more shopping choices will just threaten the retailers who have managed to hang on.
This city doesn’t need more minimum wage, part-time, and transient, “Mc” jobs.
Back to Kathryn’s idea…
I’d like to point you to some very graphic information Windsor’s Vacant Lots and Buildings. Not all of Windsor is this sad looking. But I believe that you will agree that there is no need for more retail space.
What Windsor needs is to find their compass, remember their motto, which I remind you is, “The river and the land sustain us“, and invest in the Green Belt idea in a big way. Support and maintain an ecologically sound plan that will bring back the glory days when it was called “Rose City“…and people from around the world came to see Jackson Park to query Windsor’s Parks and Recreation Department staff on how they could make their own cities as beautiful and enticing as Windsor was.
That is the Windsor I remember and love. It’s not just a dream or a piece of nostalgia. It’s just an imagination and some creative brainstorming away. Sure it will take some work. But if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves to make it happen … tell your City Counsellor that this is what you’re willing to work side-by-side with them to achieve. We can do it if we stop believing that the nay-sayers are right.
Please leave your comments here, if you prefer, I’ll take them to City Council. I want to be able to go home to the place I came from. Where green spaces and open areas, like Ajax Woods (which no longer exists, but was behind my house on Jefferson Boulevard) and cycling to Yawkey Bush made it safe and fun for children to grow up healthy and imaginative.
Create a network joining all the existing parks; make some new ones, build a trail akin to Ganatchio Trail to join all the parks. Once the city has some eye appeal and looks like a place you’d want to live in…people and companies will flock there, start businesses, maintain their properties rather than allowing them to go derelict like those sad pictures of a Windsor that has lost its self-confidence and respect.
Engage with the University of Windsor (my undergrad alma mater) to find ways to invest in projects that will be positive and creative.
Thanks for listening and let’s join hands and make this happen. We can do it if we believe we can. If we believe in Windsor … and I do, still and always.