Thanks to everyone who came out to our 2017 AGM on October 21. It was great to see some new people and to chat with neighbours before and after the event. We had some great presentations about transit, city updates and an “insider” view of development. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of these presentations on this Blog.
Here is the opening address from our Co-Chair Levi Oakey. about the state of our neighbourhood and some of our hopes for the future.
2017: In Review
Ebbs and Flows
I would like to start by acknowledging that we reside on the unceded territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. I feel extremely privileged that I have been able to live on this land for the last 6 years.
Our neighbourhood has been a part of the history of Kitchener for many years. Louis Breithaupt first built his tannery in Kitchener at the corners of St.Leger and Louisa in 1857 and also built a large home, colloquially called Waldeck. Our hood comprises many sub-units as well, defined by their own unique histories. Midtown, Fairfield, Hillside, Lancaster, Mount Hope, Breithaupt Park and many others. MHBPNA was started in 1984 and over many years, like the river that meanders just beyond our borders, we have had many ebbs and flows. 2017 was a transitional year and I believe is an ebb before what I believe will be a transformational 2018.
At the beginning of 2017, we at the Mount Hope Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association were without a leadership team after many fruitful years under Lane Burman and Ted Parkinson’s fantastic tenure. I myself had first begun working with the neighbourhood association during that time. We made a decision to run the Neighbourhood Association by a committee of three, Shannon Sweeney, Carly Greco and myself. As a committee we set to work on some programs for the year.
Breithaupt Park Athletic Club
We once again ran the local neighbourhood soccer club that we call Breithaupt Park Athletic Club. We had close to 100 kids registered this year, expanding for the third year in a row. We also hosted a multi-neighbourhood event for Neighbours day at the Breithaupt Centre with participants from 6 other neighbourhood soccer programs.
Neighbourhood Garage Sale
2017 saw the relaunch of our successful neighbourhood garage sale. We created a digital map to point out the various houses with sales available. This was the same weekend as the Hohner Avenue Porch Party and turnout was very good. We’re excited to continue this tradition.
Our New Website
Throughout all of the events of the past year (and since 2008), Ted Parkinson has maintained the MHBPNA blog, a site that continues to see significant readers looking for information on what changes are occurring in our community. Nearing the end of this fiscal year, we began to transition the site to a WordPress blog hosted at www.mhbpna.org. This will help us to keep it more up-to-date and has combined the functions of mhbpna.org and the (original) Blogspot blog. We continue to work on the site and add new functionality and resources so please visit frequently.
We have also been working with the Waterloo Region Songwriters group by providing free meeting space (if you would like information on this search for “Waterloo Regional Songwriters’ Group” on Facebook). Executive members have been also been meeting with the region and the City of Kitchener with other community organizations to discuss ongoing development issues around growth. We are hoping to create a “working group” on development in our neighbourhood and will advertise it on our website.
We continue to meet significant challenges in our neighbourhood. Although our borders have always been defined by major arterial roads, the introduction of LRT and potential introduction of high speed rail will further segregate the community from the main hubs of Kitchener as well as, importantly, from the two main high schools that service our area in KCI and Bluevale. As well, with the widening of Weber street, we have a line that now severs our community down the middle. As our community has transitioned to a younger demographic, these changes are important. We need strong community voices at the table to encourage the city and region to think of pedestrian connections throughout our community. Increasingly our community is being defined by the asphalt that is used in its surface parking lots and roadways than by the people that reside in it. Attempts to de-pave, such as the painting of the Ahren’s street crossing, remain priorities. As well as the need to connect neighbours to each other through events that we hope will get neighbours talking and noticing what both connects us and the infrastructure that is holding us back from making those connections.
Another challenge is our neighbourhood’s lack of retail options that help define places and interests. Our retail centres sit at the periphery of the neighbourhood (Lancaster to the East or King Street to the West). Beyond those locations it is a significant walk to get any type of store-front retail service. We need to encourage alternative stores, Etsy shops, and pop-ups to afford the entrepreneurs in our community the opportunity to sell their goods and for neighbours to have the opportunity to meet.
Beyond all of these challenges are immense opportunities. We have great biking and walking trails through Breithaupt Park, several parks and playgrounds (some of which have been recently refurbished) and the Spurline which has “spurred” many great opportunities to connect through the neighbourhood.
We also have examples, throughout the neighbourhood, of neighbours working together. And we, as a neighbourhood association can expand on this! We will encourage more frequent contact with our neighbours and with the City as an affiliate organization to identify potential issues and to help with coming up with solutions.
For more events and contact to happen we need more community partners. Our board is readily accessible and all our meetings are public. We have kept compulsory meetings to a minimum and we are happy to video conference members in.
As a Neighbourhood Association we would love to be the hub of activity, a conduit by which neighbours can bring their own unique perspective, events, opportunities to the table. One example of this is the return of what is called the Preuter Pace. This is a cross country run that starts at Preuter Public School but weaves it’s way through the Breithaupt Park trails. As an NA we’re helping to sponsor the ribbons that will be handed out at the end of the race. What I love about this initiative is that it is active, it’s community run and targeted towards our youngest neighbours. The ones we most desire to feel a connection to our little slice of this city.
We’re excited for the many challenges that our neighbourhood faces, and we are can’t wait to see the many creative solutions we as a community can deliver.