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NEIGHBOURHOODS: Building on Brock’s roots

Small group reaching out to form association
By Mike Youds
August 19, 2015 4:00 A.M.
Ginette Trudeau-Bauer hopes to galvanize a neighbourhood association in Brocklehurst once September arrives.

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They’re popping up on front lawns with great regularity across the country.

No, not election signs. I mean the signs like the one Ginette Trudeau-Bauer has planted in front of her Brocklehurst home. “Save Door-to-Door,” they plead.

Looking out for neighbours, Trudeau feels the coming elimination of household delivery by Canada Post is most unfair to seniors with mobility difficulties and others with disabilities who face an added challenge staying connected.

That’s partly why she’s helping form a long overdue Brock neighbourhood association.

The idea started a couple of years ago when Elly Grabner, another Brock mother, started a Facebook group called Brock Neighbourhood Watch to alert others of any suspicious activities. The group grew like wildfire and remains active. They had a community meeting that included the RCMP, Block Watch and Ben Chobater, community development co-ordinator from the City, who spoke about ways to set up a neighbourhood association.

“I thought, well, this is interesting,” Trudeau-Bauer recalls.

Originally from Red Lake, Ont. (pop. 4,000), Ginette remembers when neighbourhoods were more than clusters of homes with a few amenities. She also lived in Thunder Bay (pop. 109,000), about 500 km to the south and a university town similar in scale to Kamloops. No matter, things were different, more neighbourly you could say.

“I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s and that’s how it was back then. You always knew your neighbour.”

That sort of neighbourhood cohesion was a common experience in the postwar years, too. Lots of families with lots of children roving neighbourhoods and bringing their friends home. Mothers played a pivotal role, partly because they were the primary caregivers and homemakers. They were partly connected to one another by the clothesline, having regular conversation from their porches while hanging laundry, or over the fence while gardening or at church and PTA meetings.

As society and family structure changed, neighbourhoods evolved as well. Again, I think mothers had a lot to do with this as greater numbers entered the workforce in the 1970s and ‘80s. Neighbourhoods got older while others grew larger and next-door neighbours more distant. People tended to silo, to cocoon rather than share their lives with neighbours. It’s not that the need for community disappeared — and there remain lots of great neighbourhoods built on mutual respect and friendship — yet people developed new forms of community around recreation, work and common interests. Communities still thrived, but not so casually and intimately over the fence.

With a young son, the Trudeau-Bauer family relocated from Batchelor Heights to Brock for a larger yard a few years ago. They love it — a school is two blocks away, work’s around the corner and Brock Mall is nearby. 

“It’s very family oriented.”

It is surprising Brock doesn’t already have its own association and will one of the last neighbourhoods in Kamloops to establish one. There must have been one in the not-so-distant past. After all, this is a former municipality with rural roots going back close to a century. A 1930 map shows B.C. Fruit lands orchards, predominantly. 

There were two streets, Tranquille Road and Windbreak, a school and a packing house. The rustic Hills of Lutheran Church, about the size of a two-car garage and covered with cedar shakes, was just big enough for the congregation. Many of the early settlers were Lutherans from Germany, Austria and central Europe, who headed west a decade or so after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918. The church was a place for socializing as well as for worship. That sort of gathering place is a pillar in most communities and something Brock lacks today, a shopping mall being a pale substitute. The orchards are gone, cleared to make way for subdivisions, though traces remain.

Trudeau-Bauer would like to see a Brocklehurst where families get together for a Halloween fireworks display in a common area. An end-of-summer barbecue might be the approach to get the conversation going in September. There is a seniors activity centre at the mall, but she’s not sure how many seniors are aware of it.

She had a bold plan to push for sidewalks on every street, but that drew a chuckle from Chobater for being a little on the ambitious side of the street.

“He said, ‘Do you realize how much that would cost?’ I do but I see people in neighbourhoods speeding up and down the street.” She sees too many kids glued to computers rather than playing on those streets.

That’s a theme that interests Jovan Rodrigue, another Brock resident helping to organize the group. He sees so much helicopter parenting nowadays. Parents may be more active, but kids are much less active overall with the sad prospect of poorer lifetime health outcomes.

Brocklehurst is a neighbourhood in transition. There is increasing density, more multiple family housing and seniors housing, along with other changes in the neighbourhood, not all of them desirable. Concern over crime sparked Brock Watch. 

There are challenges, to be sure, but there is some momentum in the works. The Tranquille and Airport Gateway/Corridor plan could provide some stimulus, partly by strengthening pedestrian and cycling links. Too bad the plan has been scaled back from the original $24 million project to about one-third of that, a hamburger rather than a filet mignon, as Coun. Marg Spina put it. Neighbourhood associations can be catalysts for change. The Brock organizers are waiting for fall to organize in earnest. If you’re a Brock resident, keep an eye out for notices.

“I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a strong group,” Chobater said.

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