I'm on a committee that is advising the City of St. John's on its review of the municipal plan. Yesterday we met to review the "principles and objectives" for the plan, which were drawn from thousands of comments and submissions from the public. We also discussed a "vision statement" for the plan - and for our city.
A great discussion about our hopes and love for St. John's ensued, and it became clear that we have a unique place that we can be proud of. And given that we want our city to remain special - and successful - for years to come, I tried to relate the objective of the plan to a story I'd seen on CBC News.
A group of mountain bikers in St. John's have been creating a "secret trail system" in the wooded areas of the city. An entire sub-culture of mountain bikers has been making extensive use of the trails, and now that the creators have "gone public," it's about to become a major attraction nationally and - potentially - internationally.
So what does this have to do with our municipal plan? Everything.
First of all, these trails are mere minutes from the populated areas of St. John's. What an incredible amenity our city can offer to visitors and residents alike! Think of the thousands that travel to Vancouver and vicinity every year just to use their walking and biking trails. Now they'll be coming here (don't forget our reknowned walking trail network, The Grand Concourse).
Second, this shows just one benefit of maintaining a balanced built and natural environment. These trails can only exist in "untouched" wooded areas. If we don't plan our city, then who knows what potential opportunities we will simply cut down to make way for unplanned development.
Finally, it demonstrates that our trees, trails, and coastline are all attractions - for tourists, yes, but more importantly for people deciding where to settle and raise a family, start a career, and contribute to our economy.
So what's my vision for St. John's? My vision for St. John's is a city that is open to everyone, capitalizes on our strengths to encourage a balance of beautiful landscapes with well-designed neighbourhoods and business communities, and uses the power of its people to continually create a place where we all love to live, work, and play.