SEEDS coordinator Lee Reid (left) with councillor Donna Macdonald at the greenhouses.

SEEDS coordinator Lee Reid (left) with councillor Donna Macdonald at the greenhouses.

The challenge of change in Nelson

Happy First Day of Spring! This is such an interesting time of year in Nelson.

Happy First Day of Spring! This is such an interesting time of year in Nelson. I live in upper Uphill, and each day descend from my snowy yard to the land where people are raking grass and watching their tulips grow. That vertical change can be a bit hard to take!

This is not dissimilar to many people’s reaction to change, as last week’s Star editorial pointed out, citing the amenity areas’ modifications as an example.

I understand that. When things I really care about are changed, I get anxious and resistant. So I think it’s laudable that people are passionately reacting because they passionately care about our unique and beautiful downtown.

The troubling part is the tendency to react negatively — to automatically assume that the City, in this case, is doing something idiotic. It’s sad that there isn’t enough goodwill or trust such that people would seek out information before reacting. In fact, the passion for the downtown is shared by everyone at City Hall, and we see our gem needs a little polishing.

It was brilliant to watch the downtown revitalization of the 1980s and see stucco and corrugated steel being torn off buildings, revealing rich red brick, luminous granite and fancy architectural details. Everyone pitched in — private and public — and invested in the downtown, even though it was during the recession of the 1980s. The investment paid off. Now, it’s time to do it again.

As a start, the city is investing in the amenity areas. We want to make them friendly places for gathering, public art, and activities (like music, artisan displays, a speakers’ corner). Only one tree was removed (the beautiful magnolia) and it now resides in Railtown. Flower beds that had been bricked in will be opened up again to plantings. Benches will return.

Now, we need our private sector partners to also invest. Some buildings need sprucing up. Some awnings are simply disgusting. If we all act with pride and confidence, we can make Downtown Revitalization No. 2 as successful as the first one.

As an antidote to this controversial change (and the snow in my yard), I went to visit the crew working at the greenhouse at Lakeside Park. There they were, harvesting carrots, kale, mesclun and other greens. And thinning big pots and beds of much more. Seeing all that life and activity is such a dream come true. For so many years, we’ve talked about the greenhouses and how they should be used, but it just never really happened.

Until Lee Reid came along with her trowel and her group SEEDS — and now there’s 4H Cloverbuds, school students, seniors, midsters — the people are as varied as the crops (and just as happy!). Produce is currently going to the Food Cupboard and Our Daily Bread. It’s truly wonderful.

The other change that’s got me pretty pleased is the upcoming transit system redesign and creation of a regional system. Can you imagine taking several disparate transit systems covering a large rural area, and melding them onto one system that actually works?

It’s been a huge job, but come July the new schedules, fare structures and buses will hit the road. Regional travel will be facilitated. Travel within Nelson will be changed, and the inclusion of two smaller (community) buses during lower use times will be welcome.  The summer will give us time to tweak schedules, if needed, before the school term begins.

I believe this new system will be welcomed by most users, and I hope it will attract new ones. Of course, this change won’t be entirely a happy event — no Sunday service, yet.

So it’s spring and change is afoot. And, I know that beneath the snow at my house the tulips and primula are growing. Plus I’ve had a few extra weeks to relax before gardening season starts! So really — it’s not such a bad change, climbing the hill to winter for a bit longer. Most change is that way.


Donna Macdonald is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with her colleagues around the table.