A V I E W F R O M C H A R L O T T E T O W N , P R I N C E E D W A R D I S L A N D
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I want you to start thinking about Charlottetown. We want to know how we can bring it from "Good to Great". It has many attributes and I'm going to make a list and you'd be welcome to add more. Here's mine:
HISTORY: The site and name was chosen by Surveyor General Samuel Holland and included in his report to The Right Honorable the Lords, Commissioners for Trade etc. in September 1765. Named after Charlotte, wife of George the 3rd, it was designated the Capital of the Colony because of its location "...as being one of the best and nearly central parts of the Island" as Holland put it. There were a few other reasons, too.
LAYOUT: The town was layed out by Charles Morris of Nova Scotia in 1768 after which Patterson, our first Governor and Thomas Wright fiddled with it a bit. What we have today: the orderly blocks in the downtown with the four Squares, and what is left of Queen Square, are all part of the original plan. Outside of the downtown be have remnants of what is left of Charlottetown Common and The Royalty. It is a prize winning layout.
SCALE: "A little town that runs down to the sea" was how it was once described. And except for some intrusions our scale has remained fairly "sweet". People enjoy walking the streets of our downtown. Scale is an abstract word, but it is mathamathical and if something relates [or doesn't] in size to our human size we are, at least, subconsciously effected.
WATERFRONT: Charlottetown Harbour brings together three rivers: The Hillsborough, The Elliot or West and The York or North River. These three rivers were recognized by Samuel Holland has having "easy communication with the interior parts [of the island]". It is a magnificent harbour for boating and in our day the swimming was equally great whether it was off the wharves at the waterfront, in Victoria Park, at the Butts or along the Brighton Shore, Inkerman or Dickieson's. Sadly we can hardly swim in the Harbour any more altho' you still see kids jumping of the wharves.
The debate continues as to the value of Charlottetown as an active port. We do ship potatoes out, fertliizers in and lots of fuel stuff and, of course, we do have the cruise ships. How much more activity be can except remains to be seen. The harbour has nice deep water and moving things by ship seems to make economic sense, but what things?
OUR STORY LINE: We have been marketed fairly intensely as the Birthplace of Confederation and that is true. Altho' David says we were the Bedroom of Confederation. He is, of course, correct. They came here to talk about Country Evolving and that it what was so important about the 1864 Conference. We can build on that, but we have lots of other stories, too. They can range from Thomas Carlyle's First Love who arrived here as the Chatelaine of Government House to Watson Duchemin who invented the lovely roller bearing and built pipe organs on the side. We had Johnny Hatch our famous firebug and Mark Butcher our wonderful furniture maker etc, etc, etc. Then, of course, we have the stories of you and me. It all comes together the big stories and the little ones, the old ones and the new ones, that make this our hometown important to us all.
CAPITAL CITY ROLE: When we first began, the capital city's role was clear. We would be the home of the Lieutenant Governor, the centre of Government for the Colony, the headquarters for the Courts and the major marketing centre. Today we are still all of those things and that role, grown as it has and dispersed as it has, still gives sabilization to this town that we often take for granted. Ownership, I believe, for the Capital City belongs to all Islanders and I'd like to see that strengthened. That is going to take work.
BUILDING STOCK: One of the really pleasant aspects of Charlottetown is its architecture and the variety we have. Although we have been pretty brutal to it, we have retained some very nice examples of what our builders left us. In more recent years we have been made more aware of the value in maintaining and caring for this aspect of our town. It is a big subject.
TREES: We have been planting trees to make our town prettier even before 1884 when we first celebrated Arbor Day. Although they have been subjected to vandalism, disease, and less than the best care, we have some very, very fine trees. Much more care has been given in recent years to planting more and pruning more. We still have a long way to go.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS: What town with a population of under 30,000 can claim an University, a Technical College, a Vet School and a Culinary Institue. We can add to that two high schools, and 15 other schools to say nothing of all the other learning experiences we provide " within our four walls". The spin-off from these institutions far and exceed what is generally supposed.
CULTURAL LIFE: As far back as I have read in history, Charlottetownians were always interested in music, drama and the arts. Culture is alway tho' an up hill battle. The battle doesn't mean that no talents exists - often to the contrary. When the Confederation Centre landed in our midst we thought all aspects of our cultural needs were to be met. Alas we learned that stepping into the big time had its pluses and minuses, but it has been a grand step anyway. I think the Centre has caused us to stretch in many directions and we are the richer for it. I'd even go so far to say the the arts are holding the downtown together at the moment. Ant the talent is wonderful.
PARKS AND RECREATION: Well we have rinks and hockey, soft ball, and, I guess baseball. We also have a fine yacht club and a golf club within minutes of the downtown. We have tennis courts and a beautiful race track that overlooks the Hillsborough River - that is be unless the Irvings build tanks to block the view. Recently we have bought into Rails to Trails that links us with a trail that goes from Tignish to Elimra! We also have the Routes for Nature and Health in town and the Board-walk along the Waterfront of Charlottetown and around Victoria Park. Yes, and we do have Victoria Park. The most beautiful gentle spot that is presently, and maybe for quite a few years, in a state of confusion as to what a park really is and how active sports and parks are different. Victoria Park is a whole story in itself and its future really might have to be settled in the courts. There does not seem to be another way.
Today many of us are pushing for park expansion. We really want to see a good deal of the Expermintal Farm, that is presently being phased out , turned into a park/garden. We are a city without a Parks Policy so we must go through the shaping of that before we know what green space means in the minds of this city. Oh yes almost forgot, we are about to get a new indoor swimming pool and a skateboard park.
HOSPITALS and all: We now have one wonderful hospital with a loyal staff and caring health professionals. We are going through the same growing pains as most communities, but we should not have a problem attracting health works to this beautiful, safe and relatively healthy community.
SAFE: Some crime, a murder or two over the last number of years, usual amount of petty stuff and one bombing that we are not very proud of. We have bootleggers to everyone's amazement - and some discomfort. We have a lot of noisy and messy partiers going home late at night that we should be able to deal with and we have dog walkers who don't scope. Otherwise it is a wonderful place to live.
CLIMATE: Except for a few weeks in the spring, our climate is just great. Late spring, summer and fall are excellent. Winter just has to be embraced and to thought positively about. Nice bright cold sunny days, what more can you ask for. It is just those few weeks in spring.
DISTANCE FROM OTHER PLACES: With the new bridge travel within the Maritimes is now a song. After that, alot of people we love live 600-700 miles away, but we make their visits here so worthwhile that they put up with that distance. Its our dear family and friends that live more than half way across the country that we worry about and wish it could be easier for them. Generally our place here is worth everybodies' trouble to get here.
So there you go, that's my view. Now you think about Charlottetown and let us know how we can make it better. We'd be very happy to hear from you.
Written Saturday, May 18, 2002 at 09:46 PM