It was a full house last Wednesday at the Port McNeill Lions Hall, with many residents gathering to exchange ideas about how to improve their community.
The first Community Catalyst Coffee Shop discussion was held from 6:30 p.m. until 8:45 p.m., coffee and treats were served during the event, and it was hosted by the Port McNeill Community Catalysts, a newly formed group with the goal of maximizing Port McNeill’s potential.
The group was formed by Port McNeill and District Chamber of Commerce President Gaby Wickstrom, Jonathan Lok Managing Partner with Strategic Natural Resource Constants, Forestry Manager Kim Lefebvre with Strategic Natural Resource Consultants, and Matt Martin with Kids in Motion.
“I’m so impressed to see a cross-section of the community,” said Lok, adding he was “blown away” by the number of people in attendance.
“Tonight is about simply bringing people together and sharing in a vision of what those of us in Port McNeill can do to make a better life and a better community here, one step at a time,” said Lok.
“What we are trying to do here tonight is get a little bit more input from you guys – I just want you to imagine what we can have,” said Lefebvre, explaining “the purpose of this is we are trying to prioritize a few top things that everyone wants to see happen, and those are the things we are going to try and focus on.”
After an introduction, the participants were shown a film by Roger Books, a tourism speaker and expert, which focused on how communities can revitalize their downtown centres.
“It’s going to talk about gathering places and what we can do to experience our community a little better,” said Lefebvre.
In the film, Brooks spoke about how “people want to decompress in a pedestrian-friendly and intimate setting,” and that “You need to think of your downtown as a stage and program it with activity” to create a “sense of place and a sense of community.”
His final key point was that “where people are consistently, merchants will follow.”
When the film ended, people were then divided into three small groups, where they were asked to discuss “what’s working well”, “what needs to change”, and “what should it look like” for three different areas of town including residential, business, and gathering spaces.
The ideas were recorded on posters at each station allowing many ideas to be exchanged as the small groups rotated through the three stations, ensuring everyone in the room’s input was heard on each topic.
“I think we need housing for people that are downsizing,” said one participant when discussing the residential areas of town.
“In most businesses, customer service is great,” said another participant when discussing the commercial areas of town, with another person in the small group noting they want “more colour downtown” because it’s “drab and dated.”
Some of the ideas for gathering places included “a marine-themed playground at the harbour”, “live music and performing areas outdoors”, and “reorganizing the parking lot to break it up because it’s the first sight in downtown and it could be better.”
Before the event concluded, participants were asked to circle the room and put stickers on the ideas they felt were the most important.
“We are committed to compiling all this and have a strategy moving forward for our next meeting,” said Wickstrom, noting she hopes to host another meeting around December.