A Torch lights our new Year

By the time you read this, the Olympic Torch will have passed through Barrie on its way up Highway 11 and actually gone through Huntsville as well. How lucky are we that our city was on the route?

As the athletic eyes of the world focus on our most western province and athletes themselves prepare for a lifetime achievement, we’ll no doubt be true Canadians. Some of us will feel an incredible sense of pride. Some of us will bicker about the cost. Those who were at the Calgary Olympics will wax poetic about the community spirit engendered during 1988.

And almost every columnist in the country will write about the new year and its potential for meaningful resolutions.

As I look back a decade on this community I see great things and not-so-great things. We have a municipal challenge ahead of us to repair the chaos in our downtown and return to some retail balance. We continue to enhance and build on our beautiful waterfront and make it truly a place that every Barrie resident can enjoy. As a community we can hope to right our out-of-balance residential/industrial tax base to lighten the load on residential taxpayers and begin to balance the need for infrastructure like police, fire, emergency services, medical beds. It’s a huge job to recover from rezoning of land in the 80’s that pushed us out of whack in our residential numbers.

Enough of municipal politics… daily impact on our everyday lives.

We can relish the fact that we have regular garbage pickup, an aggressive recycling program, clean water that’s safe to drink, and good roads for the most part.

It’s so easy to jump on the complaint bandwagon, but a good friend taught me a long time ago that there’s a gift in every complaint and it’s been a lesson well learned.

And so, what do I love about this city and its residents?

I love the fact that we come from all walks of life and have lots of room for each other and our differences. I love that Barrie’s residential component is becoming increasingly multi-cultural. I love our waterfront… all 11 kilometres of it… and the fact that it belongs to all of us. I love coming up Essa Rd from the south end, cresting the hill by the TV station and looking at the sprinkle of lights that now stretch on for miles and miles.

When we moved here 39 years ago, I remember our little 1963 Valiant chugging up Essa Rd. The magic of that evergreen forest (which is now Timberwalk) ran all the way to Hwy 400. Little Barrie, its 24,000 inhabitants, was nestled in the valley, up against the shores of Kempenfelt Bay. It was magical, driving into Barrie that way and I will never forget it.

We moved here to make a living, first husband at the television station and I with the forerunner of this newspaper. Several cars and three apartments and four houses and three kids later, we realize that we’ve stayed to build a life.

As we enter into the third generation of our family here (a new grand-daughter last Christmas and another new grand-daughter this Christmas Eve), we realize that what you call home comes really from your heart. We love it here. For many, many reasons. But the love begins inside and glows outside.

And that’s what I wish for all of us, really. That we love it here. That we thrive. That we get the opportunity to be our best.

Happy 2010!