By MIKE YOUDS/
NEWS — A group forming a downtown/West End neighbourhood association is citing possible closure of the last school in downtown Kamloops, changes to Columbia Street and loss of The Daily News as prime motivations.
The initiative was started by businessman Denis Walsh, a former city councillor, who feels neighbourhoods in the heart of the city need an association that can work on their behalf in the face of growth and change. About half a dozen other residents are involved at this point.
“It’s definitely moving along,” said Walsh, who lives downtown. The two biggest issues are the possible school closure and Columbia Street changes, he said.
They are approaching the City’s parks and recreation department for a $500 start-up grant and the brand-new Downtown and West End Residents Association will hold its first meeting Wednesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in Desert Gardens.
Bruce Thomson, a West End resident who petitioned for improved pedestrian safety on First Avenue, agrees with Walsh that loss of the school would be a blow to the neighbourhood. That likelihood was a catalyst for forming the association.
“There’s no voice for people in this area,” Thomson said. “That’s a complete and utter annihilation of a school from the inner city,” he added.
A public meeting on the possible closure was held at Henry Grube Education Centre on the North Shore instead of in the neighbourhood directly affected. The school district doesn’t seem to be aware of the concept of neighbourhood schools, he said.
Margaret Huff, another downtown resident, is also involved.
“I wanted to be more community-minded. I like the local aspect,” and the possibility of bringing about positive changes, she said.
Thomson feels there is another catalyst to the formation of an association – the recent closure of The Daily News.
“One of the really sad things about losing a newspaper is that you lose a critical communications organ for the community. There are a lot of things going on that people are not even aware of because there’s no (daily) newspaper,” he said, adding that Kamloops This Week doesn’t fill the void left by the daily.
“Basically, that was probably the one medium where people got most of their local information. That’s my belief.”