Regrettably, I missed the Business Forum meeting on January 15 and I want to thank both our newspapers for their excellent coverage. Thanks to them, and lots of chatter around town, I have a decent sense of what transpired.
Though not necessarily new, many good suggestions were made, problems were exposed and, as always, a committee was named – charged with prioritizing the many suggestions arising from the meeting, then developing a plan of action and reporting back to a future meeting of the business community. A tall order, but it sounds like a good start!
In my letter last week I pointed out everyone, including Town Council, and now to the new committee, that the Princeton business community is much bigger than the downtown merchants! While the merchants are the most visibly affected, everyone who delivers a service of any sort in the area, including the construction fields and the real estate market, suffers from the same malaise. Their failure to thrive may be a large factor in the decline of successful merchants – the proverbial chicken and egg dilemma.
This problem goes to the very heart of the Princeton community.
Perhaps before we go too far into band-aid solutions, we need to assess – what is the heart of Princeton – our essence – our individuality – our claim to fame!
Long ago, before the Coquihalla Hwy. was built, Hwy. 3 was the main traffic artery for travels going both north and east. I can hardly count the number of times my young family stopped for gas there and snacks at the Tasty Freeze at the Vermillion intersection, on our way to Osoyoos or Kelowna and points beyond—happy times! That is what people still do today – just not in such large numbers. We are not, and never have been, a holiday “destination” other than for those with summer homes here, and those bound for places like Otter Lake.
We have bound ourselves to the Okanagen-Similkameen corridor – an area with whom we share little other than a brief stretch of the Similkameen river. How many orchards do you see in Princeton? Our economy is founded on ranching, forestry and mining.
This should be our proud heritage to embrace!
We have far more in common with Merritt and Kamloops than we share with Penticton and Kelowna. Princeton and the Hwy. 5A route are indeed the “Land of Lakes and Rivers”. Why are we content to be a mere gateway to fun in the Okanagan when we can be the “Crossroads” to so much more? People zip through a gateway but they stop and consider their next step at a Cross road..
A drive to Merritt along Hwy. 5A can be delightful—or for a tourist with time to spend, the drive through Coalmont, Tulameen, past Otter Lake park, along the Coalmont road to the intersection with Hwy. 5A and on to Aspen Grove, then to Merritt and the wonders to be found along the Thompson River—all the way to the Shuswap. I used to be a tourist. I know how much I enjoyed all these great places.
We, Princeton, can be the Crossroads to ALL things wonderful in B.C.
And what should Princeton look like – memorable, attractive and unique.
Here we can take a page from history and the wonderful book, “Princeton, B.C.” by Laurie Currie, page 115. Everyone should have this book – just to see the dynamic Princeton that once was.
Currie talks about former Mayor Gloria Stout, elected in 1983. Her slogan was, “If it will be good for Princeton, let’s do it.” She worked to revitalize Princeton and turn the town from an eyesore into a thing of beauty, encouraging a Western theme. Currie says, “The dynamic mayor did what few people could do. She brought the community together and gave it pride in itself.”
Some of her work lives on, like some of our store fronts – now worn and faded. Surely we are not so poor and bereft of hope that we can not afford a couple of cans of paint and find the energy to wield a paint brush and roller for a few hours. Be brave with period colors! Look at the restored ‘new’ Town Hall for inspiration.
To give credit where due – we are already on the path to looking good. My favorite thing as I drive into Princeton is the metal art sculpture of racing horses at the Vermilion intersection with Hwy. 3 and at the other end of Vermilion, the beautiful Cenotaph park and the water sculpture. Our downtown sidewalks are attractive and I love the way we decorate our lampstands with hanging baskets and banners. We are doing some things right—we just need to keep up the good work!
Gloria Stout had a noble vision, backed by will and energy. We cannot bring Gloria back, but we can aspire to her spirit.