|Back to Home||Editorial - August 2, 2012|
It’s time for Ardenites to move onEditorial by Jeff Green
I was interviewed last week for the Lost Highway documentary, which is about, among other things, the loss of businesses on the stretch of Highway 7 between Sharbot Lake and Kaladar, as well as the efforts of the Friends of Arden to revitalize the hamlet of Arden.
I did not have much earth-shattering insight to offer the film-makers I’m afraid, but after the interview I thought of some better answers to some of the questions they asked.
One of the questions they asked was about the "Why does everything go to Sharbot Lake?" question, which they said was something they heard from a number of people while making their film.
I’m not sure what I mumbled to the camera, but in retrospect I should have pointed out that whenever I have talked to an outsider, say someone from Kingston, Perth, Verona, or anywhere else, they find the idea that anyone would be jealous of Sharbot Lake pretty funny.
To them, Sharbot Lake is a backwater; and in fact, Sharbot Lake is a backwater. It has a few stores and some restaurants and two gas stations, and a couple of offices, including the township office, but that’s about it.
There is a constituency, and it has always been represented on Central Frontenac Council in one form or another, that believes there has been a grand conspiracy to build up Sharbot Lake at the expense of everyone else, particularly the long-ignored citizenry of Arden and Mountain Grove.
Whether there is now, or has been in the past, any truth to these perceived slights, is really beside the point. Arden, and for that matter a number of other hamlets in North and Central Frontenac, have lost virtually all their retail establishments over the years. But they did not lose out to Sharbot Lake. They lost out to Belleville, to Napanee, to Kingston and to Perth. They lost out to Walmart and Best Buy and No Frills. Retail has changed all over the world, and small rural retailers have been hit particularly hard.
Businesses in Sharbot Lake struggle to survive as the retail strips 35 km down the road in Perth and 65 km down the road in Kingston continue to increase in size. Does it help the Sharbot Lake businesses to have politicians and residents from Mountain Grove, Arden or Parham calling Sharbot Lake a fat cat? Probably not.
For the Friends of Arden, and for any organized or ad hoc group of people in hamlets anywhere in rural Eastern Ontario, the challenge is to build a community around something other than a commercial hub. That is what the Friends of Arden have found as they have moved forward. The support they have garnered has come from working with the Legion and the Rec. Committee and the churches. Communities build themselves up by looking at their resources and building on them. They do it by working together, and by working with neighbouring communities to strengthen the region.
There is always resentment towards the postal code where tax dollars are sent. I thought they were paving the streets of Mountain Grove in gold when I paid my municipal taxes to Olden Township, so I guess I can understand how some people in Arden feel.
Eventually, I realized that the gold was really only tar and chip, and I got over my resentment towards Mountain Grove, which I now think of as a picturesque hamlet with a good hall and an excellent school.
It might be time for those people in Arden who are still harbouring old grudges towards Sharbot Lake to move on as well.