The outcome of a community development project found that while three vibrant communities within the RM of Wallace-Woodworth value their small-town atmosphere, they identified specific needs.
At the recent RM of Wallace-Woodworth Council meeting, Tiffany Cameron for economic development reported on Wallace-Woodworth Wants to Know… Community Engagement Project.
The community engagement efforts included zoom focus groups, surveys, interviews, requests for artwork, and Community Vision Workshops. The entire initiative was built on three questions: What do we want to preserve? What do we want to change? And what do we want to create? Questions to provide a vision for each community over the next 20 years.
Ideally, we want to attract people who have an interest in the process and want to join.” - Canart
Each Community Action Report is unique but has recommendations in the general categories of Getting Organized, Promotions & Branding, Supporting Volunteerism, Supporting Art & History, Beautification, Business Growth & Housing, Recreation, and Infrastructure. Those reports require a steering committee in Kola, in Kenton, and in Elkhorn to take on the task of promoting the reports, encouraging partnerships, and implementing the recommended actions.
The community of Elkhorn identified qualities in their community they want to preserve such as the community spirit, safety and their local businesses and services. They appreciate the connections between the generations. Things like Meals on Wheels and the Young Philanthropy program are supported by this community spirit. The many sports programs and facilities, the Automobile Museum as well as Elkwood Manor are all valuable assets.
The town also identified challenges that will need to be managed or overcome. They noted that the volunteer base in Elkhorn is aging, resulting in a shortage of people to take on leadership roles. This is further complicated by the fact that new people and ideas are not always welcomed. Businesses like the bank and insurance office have left town and some residents leave to find more options for senior living. Although the museum is a very valuable resource, it is a “diamond in the rough” that needs polishing to reach its full potential.
These findings allowed the town to develop related goals. There is a need for a variety of housing options from starter homes to family homes, retirement homes and senior homes. Recreation opportunities and facilities need to be identified and community happenings need to be communicated more effectively. Perhaps most importantly, the town needs to find a way to market Elkhorn as a unified brand.
Kenton residents value their sense of community and the serenity of their wide-open spaces. They love the human connections made at suppers, socials, concerts and fairs, and the co-operation with neighbouring communities. They are determined to maintain the connections between generations as well as the care of their seniors. Community attractions like the bandstand, the dam and the walking trail need to be maintained and improved.
Like many small towns, challenges include an aging volunteer base and a shortage of leaders, but Kenton has also identified the need for a general cleanup and beautification, as well as improved internet and cellular connectivity.
Residents have goals to prioritize housing opportunities for all stages of life and develop new business opportunities. More community events like family nights or concerts at the bandstand are needed as well as a better way to keep the community informed of these events.
The people of Kola also want to keep their small-town feeling and sense of community; of knowing your neighbors. They love the serenity and space available in their town and the welcoming spirit at community gatherings. They appreciate that they have a good water supply and reliable internet in town.
One of the challenges they face is the fact that new people in town don’t always become involved in community events. Like other small towns, it is a challenge to find appropriate housing for people in all stages of life so some leave to find suitable housing. Although Kola is a welcoming town there is no organized method to connect with new residents.
As a result of the feedback from residents, the town identified goals related to housing, communication of events, attracting business and safe walking trails.
Reeve Canart noted that it is important for council to get the word out to communities that this process is ongoing and crucial to their survival. He said, “Ideally we want to attract people who have an interest in the process and want to join.”
Councillor Humphries added that “the RM should act on these proposals as soon as possible” to verify the effectiveness of the process and encourage new applicants.
These action reports are available in much greater detail, with specific, practical goals and ways to implement them. Find them on the Rural Municipality of Wallace-Woodworth website under the Residents tab.