Our Neighbourhood and the Shape of the Future

Many of us have wondered, just what exactly IS the Mount Hope – Breithaupt Park neighbourhood? Our boundary is shown here. One thing that is evident is the vast size of our ‘hood. Someone living on Moore and using the King street transit corridor might wonder how anything east of Weber might be related to their lives. And likewise, someone living around Hillside Park might wonder how they can relate to those folks who live around the Mount Hope cemetery.

All of Kitchener’s neighbourhood boundaries are a combination of geographical, cultural and political influences. For example, one quarter of Mary Street is in our neighbourhood and about one sixth of the Mount Hope cemetery is not: both or cut off because they run into Waterloo. But the people who live around that area generally don’t care about that political boundary when they visit, shop, play etc. It briefly becomes an issue when they pay taxes or vote for city council.

(n.b. You can still join our Neighbourhood Association even if you live outside our boundaries).

The MHBPNA is an organized structure that allows us to be recognized by the city and sometimes get their help. We can use it for whatever purpose we want. We can ignore it, or be creative and use it to engage each other. The Neighbourhood Mobilization Alliance is an example of an initiative that came out of the NA but operates autonomously.
Recently the MHBPNA sponsored a culture walk around the issue of the Weber Street Widening and some of the issues we discussed were “how do you interact with the rest of the neighbourhood”? “Where do you walk?” “Drive?” “What streets do you use?” 
One thing that was easy to identify was how Weber Street is a major division and it will become even more so when it is widened to four lanes. Around the same time, the “Waterloo Spur Line Multi-Use Trail” (commonly referred to as the “spur line”) will encourage more movement within our neighbourhood. Many people walk and bike along it currently, but when the trail is properly built this use will increase and be much safer. 
Despite Weber being something of a dividing line, there are many reasons to cross over it. The Breithaupt Centre is located on the east side and many people on the west side use its facilities to swim, exercise, take a course or use one of its meeting rooms. In the winter we might walk or drive to Hillside Park for tobogganing. Lippert Park, which is kind of a centre, has a tennis court, community garden and (in the winter) a skating rink. Many neighbours walk to Central Fresh Market and Giant Tiger and young people cross Weber every day to attend Margaret Avenue School, King Edward and KCI.
With the culture walk, and subsequent discussions among the MHBPNA executive, two major issues have emerged and they both have Wilhelm and Weber as their crux. 
1. The spur line trail “ends” at Wilhelm and does not cross Weber. The official plan is that cyclists and walkers would be funneled into the downtown. 
2. There will be no stop lights on Weber between Guelph and Wellington streets. The region will add a “pedestrian refuge island” so people can cross the street and rest in the middle with two lanes of traffic on each side. 
We believe the “refuge island” is not adequate for the amount of traffic and we need a light at Wilhelm street. During our culture walk (on a Sunday afternoon) we hung out at the corner of Wilhelm and Weber for a half hour and saw a dozen people run across the street during traffic lulls and two people cross in electric wheelchairs. 
Everyone agrees that walking to school is desirable but having only a refuge island in four lanes of traffic would endanger children walking to Margaret Avenue and KCI schools. We are sure it would discourage some parents from allowing their children to walk. It would also make it much trickier for people in electric wheelchairs to cross and it would discourage the rest of us from using this route.
A traffic light would encourage more pedestrian and bike traffic along this route and would help the two parts of the neighbourhood to converse with each other. Bike traffic coming south from the spur line would have an option to continue south to the downtown core or east into Lippert Park, Margaret Avenue, Hillside Park, the Kitchener Library or even Centre In The Square.

ACTION PLAN

We arrived at these conclusions late in the process because designs have been submitted and we need to approach regional council to re-open a small part of the contract. We feel it is very important to encourage as much East-West pedestrian and bike traffic as possible in order to make our neighbourhood stronger. 
Therefore:

1. We ask everyone who is concerned about this issue to contact their Regional Councillors through phone, email or letter. Showing support for these concerns is very important.

The main issues and councillor contact info are in this document.

Here is a sample letter you can print or re-write and send to your councillors.

2. The next meeting of Regional Council is November 21, 2012. We will have a delegation from our neighbourhood association address this meeting and we hope many residents can attend as well to show support. We hope that councillors will have received many letters by that time expressing our concerns about the current design.

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