Our Scruffy, Run-Down Town


No one from the town fixes these fallen barricades.
Is this a liability for the town?

There’s a gravel trail that runs along the waterfront, north of the Shipyards development, that’s been blocked by barricades since the spring. It’s been that way at least six months, perhaps longer. The path suffered erosion and some holes opened up along it. These were marked by barricades. Sort of.

Most of the barricades collapsed some weeks (months?) ago, but no one from the town has bothered to pick them up. Yet someone from the town regularly fills the nearby dog mitt dispenser on the trail, so that person or persons must see the fallen barricade every time they do that.

Been like this for several weeks. Liability?

Just left like this.
The town employee who fills the dog mitt bag not far from here must surely see the barricades have fallen. Why don’t they just fix them?

Surely this is a liability for the town. Is it a case of “not my job”? Or people just don’t care? How long will it take to pick them up? How long will it take to actually repair the trail?

The neglectful state of this trail is a metaphor for the state of the whole community. And a lot of people are talking about how run down and shabby the town seems these days. Where has our civic pride gone?

Dilapidated parking meter
Tourists and visitors see these dilapidated parking meters. What must they think of our town? That we’re too lazy to maintain them properly? Some of the lampposts on the main street are also in poor shape.

From the disrespect of our heritage walkway to our scruffy, poorly-tended parks; to our corroded lamposts; to the unwatered and untended, weed-infested public gardens around the pool and downtown; to the unkempt condition of the boxcars at the museum; to our potholed streets and crumbling sidewalks; to our decaying grain terminals; to the rusty fire hydrants; to the dilapidated parking meters downtown; to the overgrown bus stops and graffiti-marred bus shelters; to the purple loosestrife growing around the waterfront; to the tire tracks that mar Harbourview Park’s trails; to the dirty, unkept letters that say CWOOD in front of town hall: this town feels neglected, scruffy, dirty. Like no one really gives a damn.

Have you visited Friendship Park of late? It’s an embarrassment.

Friendship Park sign
What does this sign say about the way we maintain our parks?
Friendship Park gazebo
The park’s gazebo is rotting, the roof has holes, the shingles are coming off, and the seats are covered with graffiti.

The park’s gravel path has weeds, there was vandalism on a rock that was never cleaned up, the torii needs painting, the gazebo is falling apart, there is graffiti on its seats, the stream is choked with algae… it’s a monument to the town’s utter indifference to both the park and the Sister City relationship it represents. Or perhaps I should say the town’s disrespect. There’s a tattered flag that flies there, too:

Flag at Friendship Park
How is this respectful to our flag?
Vandalism at Friendship Park
Vandalism at Friendship Park.

Ever look closely at the railway cars parked behind the museum? They are decaying, and dirty; paint is peeling; the one used by the museum for storage has bird poop on its railings and filthy windows. They are supposed to be icons of our history, but they look a mess.

Historic boxcars are rotting and need repainting.
The entrance to the museum’s warehouse boxcar is dirty and the windows are filthy.

I believe there are political reasons for the neglect. First is the attitude of our council. Like the saying goes: dead fish stink from the head down. Council simply doesn’t care. They’ve been so obsessed with lavishing money (more than $10 million since 2015) on the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) and on Mayor Saunderson’s and Councillor Hamlin’s sole-sourced former employers that they’ve not bothered to look further to see what needs to be done here. Civic pride is not on their radar because I doubt they have any.

Weeds overgrowing a bus stop
Weeds have overgrown this bus stop. And are similarly tall on nearby sidewalks along Second Street.

There’s a gravel trail that leads down from the top of the berm to the east side’s asphalt trail (see below). Rain and wind have washed a considerable amount of gravel onto the asphalt, making it hazardous for cyclists, scooters, or even pedestrians. All it would take is someone in the town who cared enough to bring a broom or a rake to the site and brush the asphalt clean. But…

Trail washing onto path
Gravel washing onto the paved path, east side of the berm. A cyclist who hits this gravel may lose control and fall.

Most of the council members I reported on or served with over the years treated their role as a responsibility. They cared deeply about the community and felt obligated to watch over it, like shepherds. Sometimes to the point of micromanaging, but they did so out of love and respect. I recall Councillor Foley on his own riding mower cutting the town’s boulevard grass because he felt it looked too rough and unkempt. I doubt he would have tolerated the litter and fire pits left in Harbourview Park:

Fires and litter in Harbourview Park
An illegal firepit and litter in Harbourview Park. Many of the benches are in sad shape, too.

At least when I was in office, most councillors went around town, looking at our parks, our streets, our rivers and streams, looking at construction projects and infrastructure. When they saw something awry, they spoke to the department head about it. Not to give orders, but to inform, so the department head could deal with it, and wouldn’t be embarrassed by having it raised in public. They wanted Collingwood to look its best. These days, if councillors bother to speak at all about such things, they can only do so to the CAO.

I recall very few from those decades who lacked pride in our community, who didn’t feel a sense of responsibility and obligation to make sure it at least looked good. Today, I can’t think of anyone at the table who shows any of that. I see only an overweening sense of entitlement, but no pride in our town, let alone some sense of responsibility for it.

Rusty hydrant
Couldn’t these hydrants at least get a coat of paint?

Our mayor abandoned his commitment to his office earlier this year, hoping he’ll get a better-paying job as MPP in Toronto. That set the tone for the rest of the council to follow, and, of course, for the town staff as well. When the mayor doesn’t care, why should anyone else? And you can see the result around town every day: it looks like no one cares enough to clean it up, to fix things, to tend to the little things. Or being considerate, like not always driving on mud on trails where people walk:

Ruts at harbourview Park
Is there a reason town trucks keep driving over this muddy spot where people often walk? This muddy spot has been a problem for several years now.

(This week, I saw a town pickup truck that had been up on the berm turn and drive west along the Georgian Trail — a part of the pedestrian trail that often suffers from water and mud — south of the wastewater treatment plant to turn north on Birch Street, instead of taking the slightly longer route to drive on First Street as it should have.)

Scruffy letetrs at town hall
Some of the big CWOOD letters in front of town hall are dirty and scruffy. Why can’t they be cleaned or painted to make them look good? Why does one have an empty socket? Aren’t these meant to represent the town to visitors?

It’s not like our mayor is going to change that or suddenly start caring: he’s focused on getting to Queen’s Park, not doing what he was elected to do here in Collingwood. And the rest of council? It’s not like they were elected for their sense of civic responsibility, only for their loyalty to their Great Leader. They collect their paycheques and give themselves raises every year (twice in their first year!) Why should they do more?

neglected heritage plaques
One of the many neglected memorial plaques along Heritage Drive.

Collingwood looks the way because it reflects how our mayor and council feels about, and behaves towards our town and our residents.

Collingwood deserves better.

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  1. In the near future, I’ll do a post on the poor condition of our streets and sidewalks, with appropriate photographs of their state. Lots of photos of cold-patch thrown on potholes every year without actually fixing anything.

    Let’s consider one block as an example: Third Street between Spruce and High Streets. It’s used by the fire department every day, but it’s a patched, uneven, mess that is long overdue for re-paving. Even for cars, it’s a very bumpy, uncomfortable ride.

    Plus, let me highlight the need for the overdue traffic signals at High and Third. This council decided to ignore the staff recommendation to install them because potential supporters on Third Street lobbied against them. That’s our council:: more concerned with their possible re-election than the needs of the community.

  2. Duncan

    Sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns. Stand up the fallen barricade yourself, pull some weeds, take pride in your own town. Many municipal workers are working as much as they can. The influx of visitors have workers cleaning other surfaces and hauling garbage.
    Bend at the knees and do your part… sometimes that is infectious too

  3. Anonymous

    Totally, totally agree with you! As a forever resident of this town, paid our taxes, worked here, this town has gone for a crap! I cannot believe that the present council have no say. Maple street closure is a joke, your pictures showing have no joke. Terminals have no joke. Get off your butts council and deal with the issues. Ian, you are right on the mark. We, as lifelong resident and our parents before, can see how this Town is Going! Keep up the good report in you blog!

  4. Anonymous

    I agree with the comments about The maple street closures. An ilconcieved plan to duplicate what Toronto has done with closing streets for active T0. We have.
    .and maintain several km of trails. Why do we need this unnecessary closure of access to areas of our town. I would suggesrythat this pilot is a failures

  5. Pingback: Bad Behaviour, Disrespect in Council Meetings – Scripturient

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