By Pelham Flowerdew
It was this question that found itself plastered on 50 posters dotting the landscape between Wedgewood and Fairview (aka Mainland North) in early August. Each poster came equipped with a Sharpie for passersby to write down their answers. Call it a social experiment. Call it an attempt to bolster community pride in neighbourhoods that don’t make the tourist brochures. Call it a service project by the youth group at Grace Chapel. Either way, the results were both fascinating and encouraging.
If you had to guess, what do you think the most popular answers were? Of the 144 responses, there were a few surprises. The biggest surprise for me was that only 5 responses mentioned diversity or multiculturalism. To me, this is one of the defining aspects of this part of HRM, and what makes it such a rich and interesting place to live.
I’ll now go through the top 7 answers.
In 7th place, people love dogs! There certainly is a lot of dog-love in neighbourhoods like Rockingham (where I used to live), and it’s interesting to see that recorded on these posters.
In 6th place, we have a similar answer – wildlife in general. People specifically mentioned birds, but mostly deer. Considering Clayton Park West’s forested past, it makes sense that deer still walk our sidewalks and munch our hostas. While I know many consider them an annoyance, it seems a good number of people also have a special place in their heart for their neighbourhood deer.
At 5th, we found community gathering spaces such as schools, libraries, gyms, and churches. These places help us both grow and feel connected to others. In an informal survey I conducted in January, I found that people in this neighbourhood desire more of these kinds of spaces. In 2018, I remember coming across a diverse group of people in the lobby of the CGC ecstatically watching the World Cup and I thought to myself “Why don’t we have more spaces like that?”. DJ Butler Park has become one of those places, hosting a free ice rink in the winter and outdoor movies in the summer, as well as a community garden that is just now putting its roots down.
Coming in at #4, people said they love that their neighbourhood is quiet and peaceful. Compared to the peninsula, this is certainly true. Why? I chalk it up to noise-buffering trees, tranquil greenspaces every couple blocks, a lower crime rate, distance from rush hour arteries, and a less active nightlife.
In 3rd place: our neighbourhood is good for walking. People specifically mentioned wide sidewalks and many trails like the Linear Trail. It certainly does feel like there is a new “secret path” around every corner, and I am grateful that developers kept this in mind when designing Mainland North. Let this be an encouragement to you today to get out there and log some steps.
The 2nd most popular answer was obvious; around here, people love the natural features – trees, parks, marshes, flowers, gardens. Look at a satellite image of Mainland North. How much of the landscape remains green? 75%? On the peninsula, it must be less than 25%. Many people wrote on the posters that they want to keep it that way, opposing deforestation and proposing preservation. “Keep Clayton Park a park!”, someone said.
And what would you guess was the #1 thing people love about their neighborhood? We love our neighbours! People are friendly, plain, and simple. I personally find it quite encouraging and satisfying that this tops the list.
There is lots to love in Mainland North! We need to be proactive in both expressing it and living it out.