Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sometimes We Forget That We Live in a Small Town

Stephen Vance, Editor

I’ve seen some comments on social media recently suggesting that there isn’t enough for our kids to do in Meaford, and that the municipality should be pumping more money into programs for kids.

Some of those comments pointed to Collingwood and Owen Sound as examples of the kinds of services, facilities, and programs that should be available in Meaford. “Why should I have to drive to Collingwood for my kid to [insert activity here]?” was a common question being asked by those leaving comments.

“Why can my kid’s friend in Owen Sound do [insert activity here] but mine can’t here in Meaford?” was another common question.

I always have mixed feelings when I happen upon conversations such as this.

On the one hand, of course we want to have as many opportunities to meaningfully engage our kids as possible, and though I personally think Meaford is bursting at the seams with activities to occupy our kids, I understand parents wanting even more. We always want more for our kids.

On the other hand, I think that sometimes us folks in small towns can forget that we do live in small towns, and just as there are benefits to living in a small town – slower pace, less noise, less pollution, lower crime rates, larger back yards for example – there are also sacrifices that we make living in a small town.

Small towns generally don’t have public transportation, they almost never have universities or colleges, they don’t typically have facilities like airports or courthouses, they often don’t have hospitals (we do), they rarely have football stadiums or professional sports teams. There are just some things that, if you live in a small town, you must travel elsewhere to find – why would programming for kids be any different?

Any service, facility, or program is most cost-effective when it is supported by the largest number of people possible. There are many things outside of the basic needs of a community, such as garbage collection or road maintenance, that can be reasonably supported by a small town – a public swimming pool, library programs, soccer fields, parks, and so on. If your small town is fortunate you might even have an arena, and if you do, it’s quite likely that some of the users of your arena travel from communities even smaller than yours that don’t have them – they probably envy communities like ours that do have arenas, communities large enough to support them with a little help from their smaller neighbours.

To the Collingwoods and Owen Sounds of the worlds, we in Meaford are one of those smaller neighbours that allow for the more costly or more specialized programming to be offered by the larger community. And the Collingwoods and Owen Sounds of the world are the smaller neighbours to places like Kitchener or Barrie which have even more bells and whistles – art galleries, 5,000 seat arenas, Olympic-sized indoor swimming pools, organized football leagues, and so on.

There’s a little something called a critical mass that we small town dwellers can too easily lose sight of.

Would it be great to have an indoor swimming pool, or a municipally-funded after school drop-in centre, or an outdoor skating rink? Of course it would! It might also be grand to have a mono-rail running through town, and a Ferris wheel in market square – but how would we pay for it?

We have to keep things in perspective, and we also have to remember that there is a cost to any program or service that a municipality offers.

Does it suck to have to travel 30 minutes for gymnastics training, or to take swimming lessons in the winter? Of course it does, just as it sucks if you want to see the latest blockbuster movie, or if you need to visit a heart specialist, but that is the reality of small town living.

I think of living in Meaford like this – I’ve got everything I need right here; there are some things I’d like that are within reach by a 30-minute drive, and every now and then I might be forced to travel even further afield for something really special. In exchange for my occasional inconvenience, I live in a quiet community with a beautiful geography, fantastic people, and plenty to keep me busy.

I’ll take that trade-off any day.

Popular this week

Latest news