| Oct 30, 2008

Oct 30/08 - First Impressions: Verona

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Feature Article - October 30, 2008 First Impressions of VeronaGreat restaurants, they love Local Family Farms, but where is McMullen Park?By Jeff Green

“I think we scared a lot of people when we came. They might have thought we were from MPAC,” said one of the First Impressions team from Havelock about the visit they paid to Verona back on July 29.

The 10-member team had nice things to say about their visit to Verona when they presented their findings to a meeting at the Verona Lions Hall last week, but they did have some concerns. Among the concerns were some that can’t be dealt with by the members of the Verona Community Association, who were on hand to hear the results.

The visitors found that many of the homes on Main Street are located close to the street, that the businesses in the hamlet are a bit too spread out, and that Verona does not have public water and sewer systems. The location of houses on Main Street cannot exactly be changed, and the township politicians in the room visibly cringed when water and sewer were mentioned.

But there were other suggestions that could be adopted. The Havelock visitors found that Verona is blessed by having a picturesque lakefront park in McMullen Park, but they did not notice any signage on the main street directing people to it. “The beach is a hidden jewel,” said one of the Havelock visitors, “There are not many communities that have that kind of asset, and you should let people know where it is.”

In a related vein, the Havelock people mentioned that a public boat launch might be an asset. There are in fact two boat launches in Verona. “I guess that points out that we need signage for boat launches as well,” said association member Inie Platenius.

Among businesses that the Havelock people particularly appreciated were Jitterbugs, Local Family Farms, Verona Computer and Satellite, Bravo and Mom’s Restaurants. “These innovative stores are a great asset. They are attractions that can draw people back. They make Verona a good tourist destination,” said Shirley Patterson, one of the Havelock people.

Patterson also noted that there is a lack of parking in Verona.

Havelock, which will be receiving their report from the Verona First Impressions crew on November 5, is a village that is familiar with the advantages and challenges of having a major highway running through its centre. It is located on Highway 7 about 40 km east of Peterborough, and is larger than Verona; however, it has faced some similar issues.

With all those cars and trucks flowing though - bound, in Havelock's case, either for Peterborough, Ottawa, or cottage country - how can they be enticed to stop? Businesses located off Highway 7 have a particular problem attracting customers from this traffic.

By establishing a chamber of commerce and working with OMAFRA (the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs) Havelock has seen some improvement in its business prospects.

“We don't really have the same goals as they do in Havelock,” said Debbie Lingen, who coordinated the First Impressions project for the Verona Community Association. “Some of the things they were worried about there, such as the availability of natural gas and sewer and water, are not really priorities for us.”

But the Havelock crew did confirm some concerns that Lingen said the Verona Community Association was already aware of, particularly the signage.

Lingen said when her family moved to Verona two years ago they did not know that there was a waterfront park in the village, until “one day a couple of months after we moved, when we stumbled upon McMullen Park.”

Since OMAFRA and the Community Futures Development Corporation were the sponsors for the project, Lingen thinks the VCA might be able to go to them for help paying for improved signage.

VCA members were particularly happy about the number of local people who attended the meeting, and the ideas that they brought forward to help improve the community.

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