OPINION: Change for Ponoka comes from Ponoka

Looking at the past, present and future of Ponoka, change can come from within

What does it take for Ponoka to move forward?

I remember when I first moved to Ponoka, the community seemed to have some sort of informational black hole in that it was off everyone’s radar; including Google. It was somewhat disconcerting when looking up a business in Ponoka using an Internet search engine and the first suggestion to come my way was a business in Lacombe, or Wetaskiwin, or Red Deer, or Edmonton and Calgary.

Say what? That same company was in Ponoka but for whatever reason, Google prioritized another community.

Equally upsetting was in speaking with people who moved away from Ponoka.

“That town is the same as it was 50 years ago. It’s going nowhere fast,” was a common refrain.

It was hard to argue with that. A look at Ponoka’s streets and layout, one could see the same fixtures and no movement to be had. One can argue that stability like this is a good thing in that you know what to expect.

Unfortunately, in the world of growth, keeping the status quo may not be the best thing for a town. Outsiders considered Ponoka as a place to avoid. It’s almost like Ponoka had (or has) this attitude that it couldn’t have anything nice.

Certainly it was a humbleness, but it came across as if we didn’t care about our community. For a while though, Ponoka looked like it was not being cared for.

Regardless if that’s true or not, the perception was the reality.

In recent years here has been movement afoot in the Town of Ponoka on several levels. Informationally, Ponoka News used to focus solely on weekly coverage but that has changed to daily news delivery through www.ponokanews.com. The Town of Ponoka website – www.ponoka.ca – has current information and readily access to minutes, agendas and more.

Local businesses have jumped onto social media channels with more depth, Ponoka News is included in that. Thankfully what has happened is when I Google search a business or pretty much anything related to Ponoka, I actually get Ponoka. Celebration!

Read More – Movement afoot in downtown Ponoka

What that tells me is business owners, residents and elected officials want to see this community become more relevant in the eyes of the outside world. Council wants that, and while they’re making mistakes along the way, they’re also trying.

Some feel growth is a lost cause. Perhaps one of the concerns is the town’s location; Ponoka’s not necessarily a bedroom community like Blackfalds, which is right on the outskirts of Red Deer. And it’s not quite close enough to Edmonton to be a bedroom community.

Maybe that’s why Google was probably thinking “lost cause,” because for a while so did everyone else.

Our proximity to other communities is something to be aware of when making grand plans. Growth will probably come slower than Blackfalds but that doesn’t mean we can’t have it.

We’ve got a lot of things going for us: an old hospital that was once considered an eye sore is not around. Yes, it means that development occurred in the northern-most point of the downtown core, but sometimes you have to accept that change isn’t always perfect.

We have a group fundraising specifically for large recreation projects in the community, and the general support of the stakeholders to see that happen.

We have people thinking outside the box in terms of recreation in Ponoka with fixtures such as the ice path in Centennial Park and the family skate pond.

It’s nice to be able to search for something online in Ponoka and the results come up in Ponoka. It’s a small start, but it’s something.

We need to ask ourselves how we can help the process and if what we’re doing is benefitting that process. The stakes are higher than maybe we realize.



jeff.heyden-kaye@ponokanews.com

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