Driving into Duncan on the Trans Canada Highway is not particularly pretty or welcoming, from either direction.
Once onto the main drag through the city some beautification has been done, very successfully, with trees, roses and other plantings to make it look a little more like people live here, rather than just drive through.
And now a proposal has been revived to created a community gateway at the corner of Beverly Street and the highway, possibly with a sign, some landscaping, a gathering space, and a small pedestrian walkway.
The knee-jerk reaction from many is to decry any spending on what they feel is a frivolous project. After all, the area has serious problems with drugs, affordable housing and more. Beautification is not at the top of the priority list.
But we think people should take a second look, if they want folks to take a second look at living or travelling to our area. What a community looks like counts. Do you want to live in an area that looks down-at-heel, or one that looks prosperous and pretty? Would you rather stop in a place that welcomes you into town with a beautifully landscaped pocket park, or one where you’re met with a chain-link fence? People make decisions about whether to stop here for lunch, or even to get gas on the community’s appearance. It’s not something we can dismiss as unimportant.
The Town of Lake Cowichan is a good example of a place that has use beautification to great effect. A brand new welcome sign, a boulevard with trees and standards holding colourful banners greet newcomers to the community. Beds with shrubs and flowers extend into town. It makes you want to stay awhile.
Making our communities aesthetically pleasing also influences people and businesses to move to the area. It tells people at a glance that we are a community that cares and takes prides in itself, that citizens value the place they live.
We’re not saying we should spend millions, but these things do pay dividends into the future. It could be a small investment that has big returns.