By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 28, 2017
Every week, this paper features a “pic of the past” that shows a piece of local history. Frequently, images come from Haliburton’s downtown area many decades ago. Dirt roads, Model T Fords and razed hilltops make the village seem like an altogether different place than it is today.
Particularly striking is the view of what is now Head Lake Park, but which at one point hosted a lumber mill and train station. It was industrial land at the time. It’s unlikely that the lumber barons of 100 years ago would have looked at that lakefront property and imagined a bandshell, outdoor exercise equipment, volleyball net, children’s playground and sandy beach where families swim.
Yet the way this park has transformed over the years is a big part of what makes Haliburton the vibrant community it is today. It is our gathering space. It is in many ways the heart of the village.
Now think of County Road 21 just over the bridge on the way out of town. That stretch is filled with interesting stores, homes, businesses that are key to the functioning of our local economy. The area from just past the high school west to about the veterinary clinic is prime for development and has been the site of new building. A condo is planned for Wallings Road, a new Home Hardware less than a block beyond that. New housing was built beyond the Tim Hortons and you can regularly find pedestrians walking from Whispering Pines to the coffee shop and grocery store beyond.
There is still space for more and it seems that as new businesses arrive, they are seriously considering locating on that stretch.
Although pedestrians can technically walk along the soft shoulder beside the road to get from one store to the next, it’s unpleasant and traffic is frequently zipping along well above the 50 km/hr speed limit.
What could this area look like if we invested the dollars to make it safer and easier to access? County councillors recently received a report with suggestions. Some of them didn’t ring true for those who live in the area (closing Wallings Road and re-routing through Halbiem, for example), but much of it makes a lot of sense.
Providing large walkways for those on foot or using wheelchairs and strollers would open the part of town beyond the bridge to a whole other group of people. Creating visual cues that vehicles are entering a town could help with reducing speeds. And spending some money to improve the look of the road could enhance the appeal of a town that relies on tourism and visitors for its money.
As county Councillor Carol Moffatt pointed out at last week’s meeting, implementing the suggestions in the study would take County Road 21 from a highway to something entirely different.
Something more inviting.