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Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Editorial: Residents should support neighbourhood designation of Chautauqua

Chautauqua — it’s one of the oldest neighbourhoods in NOTL, one that nearly every resident knows about.

While you won’t find many designated homes — and the population is small — the area has just as much heart and history as the rest of the town, yet surprisingly it isn't designated as a neighbourhood.

Residents from the area are going to try to change that soon, said Victor Tarnoy, a member of the residents' association for Chautauqua.

If you know the history of the cannon battles waged on the banks of Ryerson Park, and imagine the ships on the lakefront, you can’t help appreciate why the area is so important to its residents.

The area was once home to Indigenous peoples as a prime area to make a camp, being perfectly situated on the banks of the lake.

There are still deer in the forest behind the former rifle range, so one can imagine the area must have also been bustling with wildlife and food, wild berries and probably pawpaw trees.

Chautauqua is actually an Iroquois word meaning “two moccasins tied together,” or “two lakes connected in the centre.”

It's the speculation of many that the community was a neighbourhood long before Canada was even a notion.

Perhaps one day there will be something there to commemorate those people who once called it their home.

Now it's called home by many residents, many who I know personally from growing up in town.

All the neighbours I've talked to share the same sentiment about the area. 

I must admit, the view of the sunset from Ryerson Park is one of the best around.

It would do no justice to try and describe it, but you can check out a video of a bagpiper playing down the sun on Page 19 and explore a new feature the paper has implemented, and if you're a local who has never seen a Ryerson Park sunset, you should head over there and check it out before summer's end.

I might see you there.

Down a metal staircase near the edge of the bank at Ryerson Park is a beautiful (but small) beach, often enjoyed by Chautauquans if the lake level allows.

When the lake is calm, it's one of the best places to skip stones — good luck finding flat ones though, I've probably skipped them all.

It’s become sort of a family of people who you recognize and talk with down there.

The little house I live in, which my grandfather bought as a cottage in the 80s, is also special to me.

Longtime residents may remember it as the Howdy Doody house — apparently another staple of the neighbourhood.

The first time I met Coun. Jim Collard — another Chautauqua resident — he brought it up. Apparently the front of the house used to say Howdy Doody in big letters.

Before my time, but I found it fairly humourous. 

My grandfather, my father and I all lived here at points — talk about a small town.

Throughout the years I’ve also lived on the Circle (Chautauqua Amphitheater), Wyckliffe Street and Shakespeare Avenue.

If you're a resident, you'll get a couple letters delivered to your door throughout the year from the residents association letting you know about the annual resident corn roast at Chautauqua Park.

It's a small gathering, family-friendly, and all welcome to come out and celebrate community and friendship with neighbours.

A lot of other places in the world don't have that feel anymore in this day and age.

In Niagara-on-the-Lake in general, you can walk down the street and everyone you run into says hello or offers a wave or nod — you probably know them by name.

It's the kind of town where parents can still let their children take a walk to the local candy store.

I consider myself pretty lucky when I look around.

 And in Chautauqua,  the community has definitely held onto that vibe — though there don't seem to be many kids left (Halloween isn't what it used to be).

All of this, along with the fact it's a commonly understood when somebody says “I live in Chautauqua” is just a short bit of why the neighbourhood should be officially designated.

It's uncertain when the plan will be officially presented.

Tarnoy, a longtime Chautauqua resident, couldn't be reached before publication time to give a timeline on when the plan will be officially presented, though when the time comes, I hope more than just residents of Chautauqua will support it and if necessary write to the Town to express that.

There is no denying Chautauqua has a unique character.

I believe it warrants the title of being a recognized neighbourhood.

And probably a tribute to the Iroquois, who once called it their neighbourhood.


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