I have lived in Barrie, Ontario most of my life. In fact, I was born here in a building that has since been re-purposed for something else. The house I was brought home to on Tiffin Street has been torn down, the government building that replaced it has come and gone as well. I know what it’s like to experience change.
Change is nothing new to Barrie. Regarded as “Ontario’s most progressive City”, Barrie has often been on the forefront of change albeit not all of it has been received with open arms. The 20th century did not fair well for the preservation of historical buildings in Canada, and Barrie was no exception. Between 1950-2000, Barrie lost a handful of historical structures in the name of ‘progression’ as did many other cities across our country.
Change is an interesting thing. It has been suggested that generally speaking, humans are creatures of habit and dislike change. I disagree somewhat. I think humans are incredibly adaptable but struggle with the rate of change, not change itself. With that in mind, it’s understandable why some struggle to live in a city that has experienced such rapid growth and concentrated change in the last 25 years.
I love history. I love Barrie’s history. I love it so much I lead a group that built Barrie’s only free online museum of more than 10,000 historical photos, videos and documents: the Barrie Historical Archive. You won’t find a greater champion and advocate for history in our community than me.
My involvement with the BHA has put me in touch with the community in a deeper way than I ever imagined. I have been privileged to meet and interview the men and women who built Barrie in the 20th century and work alongside an incredible team of like-minded people who want to see Barrie’s rich history celebrated and preserved.
The experience has not come without disillusionment. Whereas most have received our efforts with generous praise, Barrie seems to never be short of naysayers. I was raised to only identify a problem if I had a solution or was willing to be part of the solution. After all, complaining takes zero talent.
I have been disappointed by the churn of local social media which seems to often be a celebration of disappointments, problems and frustrations while our council chambers largely sit empty during public sessions most Monday nights. Again, it takes a different effort to be part of a solution. Anyone can identify problems.
As a community bridge-builder, it pains me to see that it’s frequently the baby boomer generation on social media complaining, resisting change and often choosing to be sour grapes over roundabouts, statues and speed limits. On many occasions, progression of any type, including the smallest of changes is met with vehement opposition.
There’s a missed opportunity here.
If I could have the ear of any older, mature person who loves Barrie as much as I do, I’d say a few things…
- I respect you. I honour you and I thank you for your contributions to our City. I want to tell your story, add value to it and preserve it for all generations.
- When you use your influence to complain about what’s wrong with Barrie, I take that personally because just like you, I’ve chosen to live here with my family. No one likes to hear their town trashed.
- We want you to be enthusiastic about what Barrie can be for the next generation. We understand the new Memorial/Meridian Square may not be your cup of tea, but for us it’s very exciting. Please be excited for us.
- We want to learn from you. You have so much wisdom, experience and knowledge to pass down. We want you to mentor us, value our interest in our city and play a formational role in our character as contributing civilians.
- We’re looking to you to set the right example.
Barrie is not the town it once was. We aren’t regressing and we’ll never return to what we were. We will only get bigger and (God-willing) better. But if my investment in helping build Barrie a free, online museum says anything, I hope it says this: We will never forget where we’ve come from.
Barrie’s future is incredibly bright. There’s so much to be proud of, excited for and involved in – if we’re willing to see it.
Much can be accomplished if both the young and old are willing to come outside our preferences, honour our heritage while enthusiastically embracing the exciting future we’re building together.