Downtown blues can be overcome

I had the occasion, last month, to walk around many of the neighbourhoods in Aldergrove. Some are spanking new, others more established. By and large they are pleasant neighbourhoods. The kind of places where people can walk the streets, talk to neighbours and bring up their families. One of my walking days was a “snow day” and I met a number of people out shovelling their walks and driveways. They were invariably cheerful and friendly and willing to chat. This is the side of Aldergrove we can feel good about. Unfortunately our downtown doesn’t quite match up. Much as I love the community of Aldergrove I have to admit I haven’t spent much time in the downtown area lately. I decided I’d take a walk on a Monday morning and see what was happening downtown. The unfortunate answer was practically nothing.At 10:00 in the morning very few places were open. On my walk from 270 Street to 273 Street along Fraser Highway, I met only six other people on the sidewalks. This being Aldergrove I did happen to know one of those people – a custodian from the high school. That was the good part. If you live in Aldergrove long enough you will run into friendly people you know. The saddest thing about downtown Aldergrove is how empty and neglected it feels. When you drive through, which is what most of us do, there is little to invite you to stop. When you walk you notice the empty stores, the empty lots, the garbage and the neglect. There are businesses trying hard to be bright and inviting, but they can’t quite take away the general drabness. The heart of downtown at Fraser and 272nd is particularly uninviting. A chain link fence topped with barb wire protects the telephone building, on the opposite corner the Alder Inn advertises “amateur night,” across the way a convenience store and a gas station round out the intersection. At 273rd Street I crossed the street to have a look at Bertrand Creek. The first thing I see is the empty lot east of the old Elk’s building. A dumpster sits in a pool of dirty water, a broken shopping cart leans into the weeds and garbage litters the ground. Unfortunately things don’t improve much for the rest of the creek area. There is a bridge and a bench to sit on to enjoy the view, but the people smoking in the stairwell of the Elk’s Hall don’t look friendly and the only other sign of life is the crows picking through the garbage. Efforts have been made over the years, particularly by the Bertrand Creek Enhancement Society to rehabilitate the creek and some progress has been made, but this handful of volunteers can’t do it alone. The garbage here is particularly noticeable and some of the cages and poles meant to protect newly planted vegetation have been vandalized. A little further on I was amused to note, that even though humans might not be interested in the creek, the beavers are. Despite wire cages protecting the trees the beavers are working hard at felling some substantial timber in an effort to make a home in downtown Aldergrove.Downtown Adergrove is a bit sad these days, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. There is a new vision for the downtown core. That vision was developed by the Aldergrove Planning Committee, working with Township staff and a design consultant, and is set out in the Aldergrove Core Plan. The plan was approved by Council in September of 2010 and is now part of the Official Community Plan for Aldergrove. I invite every one to check it out on the Township of Langley website. As a member of the Planning Committee I may be biased, but for me the Aldergrove Core Plan provides an exciting new way of looking at the assets we have in our downtown. It provides hope for the future. The challenge will be to make it happen.

-by Hattie Hogeterp