Friday, May 09, 2008

It's where you live

I live in Caledon. I can say that with some form of authority because the homeowners pay their taxes to the Town of Caledon. When the fire department is called, the truck says "Town of Caledon" on the side. The Caledon detachment of the OPP is our local police force. 

Within the town of Caledon, I live in a neighbourhood called Valleywood, a relatively new creation. Historically, this area is just north of a place called Snelgrove. At one time, this place was a hamlet in the Chinguacousy Township, part of Peel County. Today, Snelgrove is a neighbourhood in the City of Brampton in the Regional Municipality of Peel, while Valleywood is a specific development in the Mayfield West planning area of the Town of Caledon, also a part of the Regional Municipality of Peel.

Historical, political and cultural forces have placed different layers on this relatively small geographic area, causing these many changes to take place over the 170-or-so-year European history in the area. All these names and places have different meanings to different people, but they can all be seen as accurate descriptions of the area... or can they?

A while ago, I had a debate with a friend of mine who works at the Canadian Tire at Rutherford Road and Jane Street. We could agree that the store was located in the City of Vaughan, but we could not agree on which historical hamlet it was located in. We narrowed it down to three best choices.
  • Maple - Canadian tire calls this store their Maple location, but I believe that this is incorrect. Historically, Maple grew around the railway station at Keele and Major Mackenzie. The location is simply too far from Maple to be considered a part of it.
  • Concord - The mailing address of the store is Concord, but this has traditionally referred to the industrial areas to the south and east surrounding the large CN Rail yards. While the railway did not arrive until the 1960s, the area existed as a farming community long before.
  • Edgeley - Centered around the intersection of Jane and Highway 7, all that remains is a street bearing its name. The area once had a post office and several mills, but like Maple, is still a fair distance from Rutherford Road.
Maybe all of these locations are correct, or maybe none of these are - but that's not the point. The point is that unless steps are taken to preserve the history of these unique villages, some (like Maple) will grow beyond their boundaries and the name will become diluted. Others (like Edgeley), will be swallowed up, forgotten or re-branded (into Vaughan Corporate Centre).

The Town of Oakville is at this crossroads right now. As it prepares its culture master plan, an issue concerning proposed programming changes at the civic museum has caught my attention. Oakville has grown exponentially in the past 25 years, and there is a need to incorporate the history of the new developments into the museum's programs. But, should this come at the cost of a diminished importance of the historic downtown?

If the town chooses to promote "One Oakville", then the boundaries of the downtown could grow as more developments claim to be located in this desirable neighbourhood. We've seen this in Vaughan, where the borders of Woodbridge and Maple have become almost impossible to define. On the other hand, a "Two Oakvilles" (three once the area north of Dundas develops) policy could result in an adversarial mentality, similar to what we've seen in Toronto after amalgamation. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the historic village and the greater municipality share the same name.

Residents have an opportunity to comment on the culture master plan at town halls and on the Oakville Town website, but I hope that the plan protects the heritage district and that the museum exhibits reflect its significance. New developments are important, but I believe that civic pride comes from an understanding of the your neighbourhood, its history, and an appreciation of the people who first ventured into the wilderness looking for adventure.

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At 5/18/2008 1:37 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Andrae,

You got it bang on! Thanks so much for posting. I think this will give people a better understanding of the challenges in Oakville right now, and with the proposed plan in terms of the museum and culture as a whole.

Great article! I urge everyone to comment on this, especially if you are a resident of Oakville.



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