Vision Ponoka progresses with new ideas for growth

Vision Ponoka was the agenda for a group that wants to see action and change in the Town of Ponoka.

Vision Ponoka was the agenda for a group that wants to see action and change in the Town of Ponoka.

The Ponoka County and Town Taxpayers Association held a meeting April 24 in the hopes of driving change and president Robert MacKenzie feels some progress was made. “We have, I would say, a moral obligation to try and advance our communities.”

Attendees discussed the merit of different ideas such as having stores stay open late and meeting with youths in school to drive involvement. Businessperson Sherry Gummow suggested the challenge is bringing people into the downtown area. “We have to be a destination…We have to be different in Ponoka.”

Town councillors Rick Bonnett and Loanna Gulka were in attendance to offer their thoughts on ways to attract people to Ponoka. Bonnett feels making downtown more pedestrian-friendly is a possible start. He suggests one solution is to close a portion of Chipman Avenue off to driving for the summer, “to allow the restaurants to have frontage. You can go out on the street as an open-air business.”

He feels people would see the downtown stores as they walked to a place to eat and that might drive shopping downtown. Bonnett also feels if businesses can come together to stay open later on certain days might also benefit income.

“If a store downtown is closing at 5 p.m., you’ve missed all the workers that get off at 5:30 to 6 p.m.” he added.

Gulka suggests some of the control cannot fall on town council. She referenced the empty buildings in the downtown area; there have been suggestions that councillors control the lease-rates of buildings in town but that responsibility falls on the building owner. “I don’t know what the leases are on those buildings nor do I have any control on them.”

One attendee, Vern Bruns, suggested one of the ways to bring more businesses to town is to be open-minded to change. “What do we have to do? We have to change administration. That’s the root of it all.”

MacKenzie suggested the election in October will be an opportunity for Bruns to help create change. “It all depends on who steps up. Would you step up? Have you got what’s been asked for? To serve on a council to make change?”

“We can’t change the past, we can certainly change the future,” added MacKenzie.

Bonnett offered to speak with businesses about the potential of closing certain streets for the summer and for businesses to increase their hours.

Gummow offered her help.

Gulka offered to speak with schools to get more involved with the youths. She feels change is a slow process but looks forward to the outcome. “To some degree we have to be accepting of the timeline it has to take but small changes can promote a change in attitude, which grows its own kind of change.”

She hopes these small steps will create a more positive attitude and more people will want to become involved.

The Taxpayer’s Association meets on the last Wednesday of the month.