There are no easy answers

If you could sit down and plan for a community, what would be your most important considerations?
As we look to the future, the communities of Rainy River District have to deal with their histories and also with their futures. They do not have the luxury of beginning with a blank sheet.
Our histories are shared in that our communities were built around the railway. We live on either side and the railway divides us.
In the 20th century that was important. Travellers arrived by rail. Our mail was moved by rail, with sorting taking place in mail cars as the mail moved from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay.
The freight arrived daily by rail and was distributed to businesses by trucks operated by the railroad. Fuel, coal, and even wood arrived into the Fort on rail cars.
Today much has changed. The rail does not play an active role in the life of the community any more, other than causing traffic delays at rail crossings. More trains pass through the community than ever before, carrying bulk loads to destinations in the U.S.
With the growth of train traffic, level crossings are blocked more frequently. That impedes emergency services in almost every community.
Should communities demand more overpasses for their citizens?
Now we see trucks carrying wood fibre heading to Barwick. We see various truck companies bringing in truckloads of products to Safeway, Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart, and Home Hardware.
We see trucks bringing in food supplies for restaurants in the district where, historically, warehouses selling much the same products were located in the district.
Much of the highway truck traffic has diminished with the closure of the Fort Frances mill.
Businesses and industries, meanwhile, are more reliant on centralized computers for customer records and documents. Retrieving those records or making financial transactions requires high-speed Internet connections.
How can communities provide for this new infrastructure requirement, as they do for sewer, water, and electricity?
To attract new businesses, professionals, and service people, what must communities do to make themselves more attractive? Should new subdivisions include walking and biking paths connecting the homes to nearby parks?
Should there be a mixture of housing types available, including single-family homes, duplexes, row townhouses, apartments, and condominiums.
What are the necessary recreation needs of the community? Is an ice arena necessary? Does the community require a pool? Should there be special young children’s parks? Should parks have more facilities for the handicapped?
All of these questions face councils across the district every year.
Each community will develop its own strategy looking to the future. No two will have the same solution though some may have common ideas and work to develop shared resources.
It is fun asking the difficult questions. There are just no easy answers.

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