The Eastern Townships are some of the oldest settlements in Canada. The several towns are composed of historic landmarks and buildings often with a plaque out front describing who lived there and when. These historic buildings are some of the greatest treasures we have, so when it comes time for one to be demolished it causes an uproar. This is the case for the historic blue building downtown Knowlton. The “historic blue building” was a bustling retail centre until the final store closed launching downtown Knowlton into a bad position over the last year. Since then the building has sat empty only being used for the occasional holiday market and more recently a façade for a Lifetime Christmas movie.
A few months ago, The Town of Brome Lake released a proposal for the rejuvenation of the park downtown that is situated adjacent to the “historic blue building”. The proposal, called “The Public Square Project”, states that the “current pond will be upgraded not only for esthetics but also to fix the integrity of the pond. This project is to improve the health and safety of the space to combat against the effects of global warming” stated the towns General Manager Gilbert Arel. The pond, which is the centre piece of the park, was in impeccable condition “until 2011/2012 when it was fragilized by a storm forcing the town to lower its water level” recounted Monsieur Arel, “now it is full of vegetation and needs to be dredged to remove all the built up sediments because it is a direct filter to the lake and we do not want that material going into our lake”. Before work begins on the space everything needs to be approved and authorized by the government to ensure everything is completed correctly. As of now the Town of Brome Lake has not gotten the “okay” from the government, so in the mean time they are crossing their fingers the government allows them to do what they wish. “We just want the pond to be as it was before. We want the iconic reflection of the church in the pond because Knowlton is famous for that image” reminisced Monsieur Arel. “Do not worry every ecosystem is going to be well treated and every single fish will be watched during construction” confirmed Monsieur Arel.
Currently the pond suffers from an unwanted algae bloom and other microbial infestations that need to be removed because they are invasive and not natural to the environment of Brome Lake. However, specialists are being consulted to keep the area as natural as possible with trees and green spaces. This project is known as: From the brook to the book, because the future park will connect the falls to the library. It is important to mention that “there will be three pines planted in the park for Louise Penny” happily added Monsieur Arel.
Although costly, and a huge investment, this project will bring space for picnic areas, a gazebo for concerts, a future permanent home for the farmers market, repair the dam, expand the library, and a beautiful view for people to enjoy. It is also a project to promote tourism in the town centre.
Just the beginning.
Ground was broken last week to commence the beginning of the rejuvenation project. First steps being to demolish the “historic blue building” that sits on the land in question. The demolition was completed by a local company to keep the employment and money spent within the community it is affecting, however, with the first swing of the shovel some citizens became enraged. There is a struggle to understand the need for the park to be rejuvenated and why it was at the cost of a historic building. Following the uproar on the local towns Facebook page comments were posted saying “the building was in perfect condition and it was a waste of money to tear it down”, “it is such a shame to see parts of the towns history flattened”, “this town doesn’t need a new park”, just to highlight a few. However, from the perspective of the town, “the blue building was torn down because it did not fit the theme of the town. Every other building is of loyalist architecture and the blue building was just thrown up in the 70’s or 80’s to create more commercial space” stated Monsieur Arel.
Trying to help the town.
Citizens have the freedom of speech to say whatever they wish on this social platform, but it is important to note that all decisions regarding town projects are discussed, voted on, and passed by both councillors and citizens. “The Town of Brome Lake wants to appropriate the downtown to promote tourism and also help the merchants to get more business” said Monsieur Arel.
From the viewpoint of the citizens the project may just appear as a flattened square of rubble in the centre of town, but according to Monsieur Arel “it is going to be beautiful and a great asset to both the Townships and the citizens. Citizens will have a space in town that they can be proud of. A strong Knowlton is important for all of Brome Lake”.