An eternal promise - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Living in a place like Blyth comes with a promise of community. I grew up in a city where most people don’t know their neighbours’ names, don’t know what the local service clubs are raising money for and have likely never met their councillors.
Almost 17 years ago now, I sat with then-Publisher Keith Roulston and then-Editor Bonnie Gropp and, eventually, I took a job that would forever change my life. Yes, it launched me into my chosen profession and gave me the opportunity to write for a living, but it also came with that promise of community.
Jess and I bought our house in Blyth in 2015 and have since (just about) doubled its occupancy level (Baby Number Two is due in just a few weeks), buying into the promise of community offered by Blyth. And now, as we sit weeks away from meeting our second child, agenda-driven council members may be poised to break that promise of community.
Working under Keith for all those years, I learned about the importance of investment in community; that to care and be truly motivated you need to be invested in the community. The communities of Blyth and Brussels have given Keith so much that he was always working to give back. As the co-founder of The Citizen and the Blyth Festival, as well as local business groups and farmers’ markets, Keith has lived a life of building up a community in an effort to make it better, rather than cutting away or tearing down.
It was another local business owner who has, on more than one occasion, repeated the mantra that no one cuts their way to prosperity.
And yet, here we are. North Huron Reeve Paul Heffer made it very clear at the Jan. 12 budget meeting that he personally feels the community should only have one community centre. As a Wingham resident, it’s hard to envision a future in which it’s the Wingham centre that gets the chop - if it comes to that.
My path to Huron County is one that every municipality should hope to replicate several hundred times each year if it could. Someone who was born and raised elsewhere falls in love with the area, moves here to start a family, have children and work for a local business, living and working in the same community. Considerations like closure of a village’s community centre, for a young(ish) father of two(ish) children, can’t help but feel like a betrayal of that promise of community.
Those of us who live in small communities like Blyth or Brussels don’t ask for much; we know we won’t necessarily get it and we understand that resources are limited. A community centre, though, especially for those with young children, is what one might call a cornerstone. Jess and I knew that Blyth had lost its school when we moved here, and that was unfortunate, but the community centre and the way the community transforms in summer thanks to the Blyth Festival and all of its branches made it a place we wanted to be; a place we wanted to call home and to create some little people of our own to do the same.
As I wrote in last week’s editorial, a great-looking budget isn’t worth much if your community has nothing to show for it.
Growth comes through building up a community, rather than stripping it down. Blyth residents will be hoping that the community builders on North Huron Council outnumber those seeking easy answers, willing to make a generational decision just to cut some corners.
Those of us who have invested in the area after being given a promise of community can only hope for that same level of investment and trust from those representing us.