Barrett: Change can add to Lacombe's charm

A picture of Lacombe's 50 St. at night. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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How many movies and stories are out there where someone fears losing something they covet to the point their fear becomes why they ultimately lose?

This happens in Star Wars – Anakin fears losing Padme, and his fear turns him to the dark side which in turn is why he loses her, and again when Luke fears the darkness in Ben Solo, which turns him to the dark side – it happens in Game of Thrones, multiple super hero movies, a few classics, and even Shakespeare plays.

In the real world, we see this manifest in government decisions – the Trudeau Liberals fear climate change, and rush to put in so-called environmental measures in panic, only to have them do little to better the environment. They fear, as all governments do, losing in the next election, and start ramping up funding for projects they think will sway various interest groups to vote in their favour.

Locally, we’re starting to see it show in some citizens’ reaction to any plan put forward that would start to modernize the city, and move away from past ways of doing things.

They fear Lacombe is on the path to losing its small town charm and feel, but its this fear and clinging to the past that will destroy it more than any decision or project put forward by council or local businesses.

It’s reared its head a couple times when a property owner tries to subdivide any of the large residential lots downtown. While it can be appreciated such lots still exist, the reality is they aren’t feasible for most anymore, and many more residents could be attracted to live in Lacombe if there were more affordable housing options near downtown businesses.

This same fear also came into play Monday, as some business owners were upset council approved a business front patio for a local restaurant downtown in a narrow 4-3 vote. The decision marked a move away from the kind of downtown where people can park in front of businesses, and towards one where shoppers and restaurant patrons must walk down the street or a few blocks away that exists in pretty much every other city in the world, be it in Red Deer, Edmonton or European communities where streets closed off to traffic are highly prevalent.

They said Lacombe wasn’t Europe or Edmonton. They are not wrong.

However, what differentiates the city isn’t its geographical location, or the size of its population. It’s not the setup of the downtown core, or the configuration of parking. It’s the people and their sense of community.

Ironically, it is this unwillingness to let go of the past and open up to both new ideas and ways of doing things that could very well kill that community spirit and small town charm.

There are several businesses downtown that are known throughout the province to the point people make day trips to visit a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a brewery. People who make these kinds of trips don’t just stop at only those places – dozens tweeted that they make a day out of visiting the Lacombe, wandering down the streets and looking at the historical buildings, and visiting other businesses they never would have known about or stepped inside otherwise.

Many of the people I’ve talked to don’t mind walking an extra couple of blocks, because they like the opportunity to see more of Lacombe. Some go as far as taking advantage of the trail system, which has led to them coming back to take part in Bill’s Trail Run, and bringing others with them, thus supporting the Bill Nielsen Trail Society and the upkeep of the trails.

One business’ success breeds the same for others, and generally speaking, this is what I’ve seen in my three years working in the community. Businesses here generally try to support each other rather than compete because they’re not just looking to make a few quick bucks – they’re looking to enhance the community with their own unique skills and offerings.

However, with some clinging to the past, worried about any transition away from how things are done now, that’s in danger. The supportive atmosphere so unique to Lacombe is showing signs of weakening, which will ultimately be what changes Lacombe from having small town charm to big city hostility.

Is losing a few parking spots really worth that?

Change can add to the city’s charm, so rather than fear it, embrace it.

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