by Nancy Peckford
When we moved to North Grenville six years ago, we decided to buy a house in Old Town Kemptville. Apart from its charm, this location offered something crucial – walkability. With three young children, a jaunt to the local bakery, coffee shop, bookstore, library, yoga studio, or grocery store was and remains well within reach.
Curry Park, a wonderful treasure in the core of Kemptville, is just around the corner. We have found ourselves skiing, sledding, tree-climbing, and even wading in the Creek, weather dependent, of course. Our proximity to the downtown has provided countless outings. Plus, we have the opportunity to support local businesses.
However, not everyone in North Grenville enjoys such benefits. And nor is walking or cycling in downtown Kemptville always safe. Six years ago, much of Bridge Street did not have a sidewalk, making a walk to Curry Park often perilous, especially at dusk.
Thankfully, the municipality is expending precious resources to expand sidewalk coverage in the Old Town, albeit slowly. The recent addition of a cycling/walking path from the intersection of County Roads 43 & 44 to the Municipal Centre and the new Kemptville Public School, was another step in the right direction given the increasing traffic in that area. Extending it to Equinelle is the logical next step and would give more residents from there the option of walking to the downtown core.
As a rapidly growing community, promoting cycling and walking options between and among established and emerging neighbourhoods and businesses is a major challenge, and opportunity. Despite significant investments in a recreational trail system in North Grenville, hardly any of them enable residents to choose other modes of transportation to travel to different neighbourhoods, or shop locally.
This is especially true of the Colonnade Shopping Plaza, which continues to welcome new businesses at a rapid pace. A heavily frequented area, it is nearly impossible to feel safe there as a pedestrian or cyclist. While there are sidewalks in some locations, they often end abruptly, leaving one to walk along the curb and/or navigate busy intersections within the plaza.
Further, even though the old railway trail system is a fantastic acquisition which could easily enable residents to bike or walk to (or from) Colonnade, it’s not really feasible. Crossing County Road 19 at the trail’s endpoint is nothing short of dangerous. The simple addition of a traffic light would make all the difference. But, unless you get out of your car and try crossing the road yourself, it’s hard to appreciate the urgency.
Because of this and other pressures, both County Roads 19 and 43 often feel very congested, fueling the concern that North Grenville is losing its small town feel in the name of aggressive development. Parents of the local Montessori pre-school, the largest childcare facility, and a successful local business, located on 43, know intimately the frustrations of dropping off and picking up kids at that location.
As a community that characterizes itself as “green and growing”, strategic investments in cycling and walking paths that enable residents to get around the community on foot, or on a bike, are hugely important. Making Old Town Kemptville an equally walkable destination from more neighbourhoods just makes sense, given the growing diversity of local businesses in a scenic and historic location that is in close proximity to another gem, Riverside Park.
Increasingly, such community features are crucial considerations for families and seniors who are seeking, not just reasonably priced housing, but a cohesive community that is committed to getting people moving in new and different ways.
Countless North Grenville residents spend significant time and money commuting to jobs in and around Ottawa. Extensive international research on commuting demonstrates that, for many, it can shorten your lifespan and negatively impact your mental health. Helping more families in our community spend less time in their cars isn’t just pie in the sky, but fundamental to health and well-being.
As North Grenville embarks upon an important ‘asset audit’ to properly plan for the necessary maintenance of roads and buildings, a safety and wellness audit that examines how residents travel in and around the municipality should also be conducted.
The results of such an audit would provide an excellent roadmap for paths, trails and other options that could, if implemented, meaningfully improve the quality of life for residents, young or old.