After a summer of trying something new, Morden City Council put out a survey for the entire community to give their input into the closure of a portion of 8th St downtown, beside the iconic clocktower all day, for the entire summer. The area had been closed other years for the weekly Farmers' Market and for Suncatch Concert Series, this year the leap was taken to try something that had been talked about for years.
Deputy Mayor Gord Maddock said they had heard a lot of feedback from certain groups but wanted to give everyone a chance to have their say.
"We had heard what quite a few of the businesses wanted and they didn't want it, but they're not the only ones involved here. The citizens are involved as well. So, we put out this survey and it came through fairly favourable that they wanted to continue. So, we got to sit down, and we pull all the parties together and bring in the business, through the Chamber, we'll bring in some of the citizens and work this thing through."
With 71% of respondents in favour of trying it again next year, Maddock said based on the feedback received there will be some changes.
"We didn't spend a whole pile of money on this thing (this year). We just kind of threw it in there. We heard they want more food trucks, better seating areas, different things like that. So, we're aware of a lot of those things. And if we decide to proceed, we're going to put some money towards it and make it a better place for people to come and be entertained. We're going to also bring in some of the groups. I know the Christian men were looking at Sundays, we're going to encourage them to go down on Sundays and have gospel and things like that."
While not everyone was in favour of the closure for the full portion of the day, Maddock said council did look at the feedback from those who didn't appreciate the change.
"It could have been used better. They had ideas on how we could do better, and I agree, we did a terrible job of putting it out there, but we know we did that wrong. If they decide we're gonna go ahead, we'll do it better."
Maddock noted there were some concerns about reduced parking. He didn't think much parking had been lost in the experiment noting the area beside Appelts Diamonds is city land. He mentioned he didn't have much trouble finding a space when he went downtown, adding with a chuckle, it was probably good for him to walk a bit.
He identified some of the areas of improvement given in the survey results.
"We didn't get signage up telling people who to call if you want to rent this spot. The tables we brought down were picnic tables out of the park and they're seeing better days, but we'd get some nicer picnic tables. They wanted more food trucks, that's a positive thing. We can get more food trucks there. We have to work with the Farmers Market and make sure that their space is there. We have that kind of figured out, if it does go forward, where the Farmers Market would go."
Hindsight can be 20/20, but the goal has been clear from the beginning.
"We wanted to get more people downtown. We wanted to bring more people into this area and shop and go visit our stores. They said, well, go to Confederation Park. That's not what Confederation Park is all about. That's a sacred place where our war heroes are honoured. You don't want people traipsing across there. We do it once a year, Corn and Apple we have people in there. To me, that's not the place to have it. 'Well, go to Morden Park.' Well, that doesn't bring people downtown, we wanted to bring them downtown."
Maddock said council does have open ears to listen to those with feedback on this new initiative. Once a full council is in place, there will be more work done on the project for next year.