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'The conversation is the goal'

Bound by busy streets, these neighbours want drivers to slow down
October 22, 2015 4:00 A.M.
Cameron MacQuarrie and a wall of covered-up graffiti off Tranquille Road: 'These walls are a place to speak.'

Down at the Red Beard on Tranquille, Cameron MacQuarrie filled me in on the North Shore Central Neighbourhood Association, the conversation taking a few interesting turns around a cup of coffee.

The group is small — half a dozen people — and took root a few years ago through neighbours meeting one another on John Tod field. Before the transformation of the old school into the John Tod Centre Y, they were out on the brown grass after the snow melted, picking up litter and dog poop.

“For years, the school was protected by neighbours in the area,” explained Cameron MacQuarrie. “The whole idea was to protect the property from becoming so derelict that it brought down property values.”

That was how the conversation started — on a wet and dirty field outside an abandoned school — and it continues.

“The conversation is the goal,” MacQuarrie said. “As a community association, it’s all conversation.”

Sandwiched between Fortune Drive and Tranquille Road, the neighbourhood had no association to represent its interests. To the east, the Schubert Drive area has an association formed earlier to address homeless camps along the riverfront. To the west, the McDonald Park area has an association formed around the rejuvenation of the park. In between lies the slightly higher ground in North Kamloops, an older, inner-city neighbourhood bounded by traffic corridors and flanked by the North Shore’s central business district. 

The neighbourhood has its issues, no doubt, but convenient shopping isn’t one of them. It’s one of the city’s most culturally diverse areas and one of its poorest as well. MacQuarrie, for one, appreciates its character for all its imperfections.

“Some of the foremost challenges of the North Shore are what make it lovable.”

The group meets monthly now at John Tod, but there was nowhere to meet when they formed,

“So we walked, laying our eyeballs on the community together as a group, talking about what we were seeing as we walked through it.”

He noted that the City polled its various neighbourhood associations to determine their most important issues. It was overwhelming — connectedness between individuals in the community is imperative. But connectedness is also an issue, MacQuarrie said. 

“Why I think we exist is to simply have a place for the City to say, ‘Hey, what do you guys think about this stuff.’ And then to actually have a voice to speak to the officials.

“We are really trying to be casual. Anyone who joined the group was really scared about how much work a community association can create. I don’t subscribe to the belief that a community association has to be something specific.”

MacQuarrie is inclined to some fairly radical beliefs about contemporary society, particularly in the manner it treats its most vulnerable members, a subject near and dear to his neighbourhood. He doesn’t view the City or groups such as the United Way as community allies but as “soft enemies,” there to shore up the status quo.

“I’d say society is incredibly shallow in its approach to human beings and the problem is overwhelming.”

His views are not necessarily reflective of the group. To the contrary, they often don’t agree: “We have a very disparate core that’s difficult to manage. We have all the despicable traits of humanity in our group.

“I think we can be friends and have opposing views,” he added.

His outlook, for example, on graffiti won’t win him any allies with the business association or the City, but he sees the world through the eyes of an artist and activist: “I don’t understand how silencing our youth makes any sense at all. Those walls, in my opinion, are a place to speak.”

On prostitution: “My heart goes out to those ladies who walk the streets. I’m always waving to them feel welcome and still human beings.”

Top of mind on Wednesday was speeding. This surprised me because I’ve always felt that Tranquille has one of the slowest traffic flows in the city. Fortune is fast, but mostly hovers around the speed limit. MacQuarrie believes it should be 30 km/h in the neighbourhood. At 50 km/h a pedestrian has an 80 per cent chance of dying; at 30, it’s 15 percent. It’s not a subject he takes lightly.

“As a driver, I’m always traffic blocking. It’s a risk I take by actually trying to keep my community safer, a little safer by 10 km/h.”

The group does agree on densification, increasing the taxable footprint with more people concentrated in the urban core. They are encouraged by the metamorphosis of John Tod with its multiple benefits for the neighbourhood. MacQuarrie is not encouraged by the number of people who drive their to exercise. 

“We’re very proud of John Tod,” he said.

When the new Y centre was being landscaped, the group was consulted. They agreed that at least two elements were priorities: Trees and water. Lots of people walk by, en route to downtown and they need shade and water, MacQuarrie reasons. Plus it encourages more people to walk. Too many people are driving too much and too fast.

“They are automobile blind. Again, who wants to walk with cars all over the place?”

I walked away from the interview thinking that this would be the most radical of the neighbourhood associations covered so far in this series. Later I realized that the NSCCA has much in common with the DNA on the other side of the water. They, too, want to see safer streets. Go figure.




peter says:
October 22, 2015 03:48pm

just super double plus good...I guess Orwell lives. A stalking horse straw man validates the plans, long laid, by the usual suspects.

People should be in jail for the rape of this neighborhood...and by the way Arthur Hatton is now over capacity.

If you want a story Mike, give me a call.


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Pierre Filisetti says:
October 22, 2015 07:14am

Great article Mike. A pleasure to read. And I whole heartedly agree about the traffic speed. In fact take away vehicles and all of the sadden peace and quiet turns ugly into loveable.
While vehicles do have a purpose, the least the city can do to improve livability everywhere is to slow them down and force a noise bylaw.


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