I love Burlington.

I love Burlington.

And I’m feeling really unsettled lately with all of the changes I’m seeing coming towards our little city. Specifically, I’m referring to the downtown core and the monstrous condo towers that are being approved, and subsequently pushing out our retailers and restauranteurs, taking away the quaint, distinct, cozy vibe of the core. (You’ve heard that Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is looking for a new home, right?)

Recently, a 23-storey condo tower that was proposed to be built across the street from City Hall was approved. Despite height restrictions, bylaws, and a whole bunch of OMB red tape, developers were able to make this happen, and City Council voted in favour, with only Mayor Rick Goldring and Councillor Marianne Meed Ward opposed (Marianne is the Ward 2 councillor, and the only councillor to actually live downtown). You can read the summary of the situation here. This is happening, and this is a game changer. This opens the valve, sets a precedent, and changes Brant Street forever; in fact, more developments are planned, more towers are proposed, more small businesses will be pushed out (you can read that info here). And all of this has been done with a certain shroud of secrecy, a seemingly-pre-decided agenda, and a hurry-up-and-approve-it undercurrent; the word sneaky comes to mind. It kind of feels like we let our guards down and all of this snuck up on us, doesn’t it?

I moved to Burlington in 2005, after living in Toronto for three years, and being born raised in rural Alberta. My husband, meanwhile, is born and raised in Burlington, and remembers when Upper Middle Road was the far edge of the city and ‘The Orchard’ was actually an orchard. We chose to stay here and buy a home, start my business, and have our children. Burlington had the small-town feel that I needed with the perfect mix of city-living and community spirit within which we wanted our children to grow up. MoneySense magazine soon caught on, and has ranked Burlington as Canada’s best mid-sized city for the last five consecutive years.

After living in North Burlington for a decade, my family moved downtown in 2015, realizing a long-term dream of ours (or perhaps more accurately, mine). Downtown and the waterfront called to me constantly, it was the gem I fell in love with when I first laid eyes upon this beautiful city in 2004, and it’s been tugging at my heartstrings ever since. How lucky I am that I live within a 15-minute walk of the Pier, a 2km run to the most gorgeous lakefront, and a quick stroll down to the many festivals and events that downtown Burlington proudly hosts.

We’ve built our lives around this treasure of our downtown core, constructed our dreams around it, and taught our kids to enjoy it, appreciate it, and contribute positively to it. And now we’re on the brink of change, and we need to stand up and make our voices heard. I know that Burlington is growing and I’m not opposed to development, but I think there are better places for condo towers than at Brant and James. Our beloved city needs to be developed responsibly, and if you agree with me, I encourage you to write to your local councillor and have your voice heard. Together, we are strong.

Mayor Rick Goldring: mayor@burlington.ca

Ward 1, Rick Craven: rick.craven@burlington.ca

Ward 2, Marianne Meed Ward: marianne.meedward@burlington.ca

Ward 3, John Taylor: john.taylor@burlington.ca

Ward 4, Jack Dennison: Jack.Dennison@burlington.ca

Ward 5, Paul Sharman: paul.sharman@burlington.ca

Ward 6, Blair Lancaster: blair.lancaster@burlington.ca

Image courtesy of www.burlington.ca


Worobec Beach

Did you know that it was Burlington Green’s Community Clean Up Green Up Day this past weekend?  I’m asking because I was only made aware of this wonderful event a couple of years ago.  It’s now an annual tradition for our family, and one that I treasure for so many reasons.

Every year around Earth Day, the valuable Burlington Green committee sets up an online registry whereby residents can choose an area of the city to focus their cleanup efforts, or join a larger group effort, of which many neighbourhoods plan in advance.  The City even provides cleanup supplies and disposes of waste items collected.  There is a celebratory BBQ afterwards and a compilation of cleanup pictures distributed at a later date.

Last year, we chose to clean up the ravine that was directly behind our house. In a matter of a couple of hours, we had pulled four drum-liner garbage bags of waste from the ravine and its stream.  I was amazed at what a clear impact we made in such a short time and impressed with the impression it made on my kids.  This year, in a new house and new surroundings, we decided to choose a place near and dear to our hearts; we chose “Worobec beach.”  Now, you will not find the name Worobec Beach on any official maps, but we’ve found a small secluded stretch of the Lake Ontario shoreline only a 10-minute bike ride from home, and made it our namesake.  It’s our little treasure in the city, our happy place.

We spent about an hour at Worobec Beach, wearing rubber boots and work gloves, combing through things that had washed up onshore and things that had blown in from the park or the road.  We picked in between the boulders that lined the shoreline, and the trees that give Worobec Beach its secluded privacy.  Although not as garbage-riddled as last year’s ravine cleanup, we did manage to fill one garbage bag right to the brim, mostly with plastic bottle tops, straws, and empty beer bottles.

We made a difference.  My kids saw the obvious implications of their hard work.  They learned about their environment, contributing to their community, and the value of working together.  All while basking in the sunshine and their parent’s pride.

I encourage you to sign yourself up for Burlington Green’s Eco-News so that you don’t miss this valuable event next year.

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Next time, I’ll do Better.

I was in a situation a few weeks ago that I can’t get out of my head; a situation that I feel guilty about, that I’m disappointed with myself about.  And what usually helps is putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, and getting it out of the rumination stage and into the take-action stage.

So here goes:

A few Tuesdays ago, my family was driving to swimming lessons.  We took two separate cars, as my husband was planning to head directly to the gym after swimming, while I was to take the kids home and put them to bed.  The kids chose to ride their with their dad, so I was alone in my car, a very rare occurrence, cozy and comfortable.  It was a stormy night, one of the few we’ve had during this mild Winter, with blowing snow and frigid temperatures, combined with mid-January evening darkness.  A miserable time to be out, and I was bundled in full Winter gear for the short drive to the pool.

I slowed down as I approached a red light, and noticed three people huddled together at a bus stop sign.  There was no bus shelter where they could be protected from the elements, just a bus sign on the side of the road.  I made eye contact with the figure whom I presumed to be the mother, and I glanced down at her two young daughters, who were likely in the four to six age range.  All three were in snowpants and parkas, scarves and toques, all carrying grocery bags and waiting for the bus to arrive.

I didn’t stop to help.  I had two empty carseats, an SUV full of trunk space, and I didn’t stop.  Several weeks later, I am still thinking about why on earth I didn’t stop.  This was not in my usual character.  I could’ve helped, I could’ve brightened their day, I could’ve made a difference.  But I chose not to.

Ten seconds later, I phoned my husband through my car’s Bluetooth.  “I’m turning around,” I said, “I’m going back to pick up that family I just saw.”

“I saw them too,” he said.  “Good idea.”

I turned around.  I went back to pick them up.  But in the three or four minutes it had taken me to reach that decision, they were gone, likely already on the bus they’d be waiting for.  And I’d missed my chance.  I’d missed my chance to be the best person I can be.  To be the person I want my kids to be.  To be the person that I usually am.

I arrived at the pool a few minutes after my family, and explained what happened.  I’d lost the opportunity to help, I told them.  I wish I would’ve reacted sooner, I told them.  Mommy was trying to be a good person, I told them.

But I didn’t try hard enough, and I’m quite honestly beating myself up about it.  Now, you can be assured I didn’t write this post to get online approval, or the you-really-are-a-good-person comments, but rather I wrote it because human experience has a learning curve.  Here’s a good reminder for us all: if you see a person who needs help, help.

Next time, I’ll do better.

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