As the seasons change here in our blessedly peaceful corner of the world, my hours spent downtown cause me to randomly ramble.
Our creative and aggressive tourism marketers use their expertise to attract visitors. When an admiring tourist asks who pays for our beautiful floral displays, I respond simply and honestly, “You do.”
Yes, they come here, they spend taxable dollars here and eventually much of their money finds its way into municipal coffers.
The town then pays its excellent gardeners to maintain our reputation as an indescribably pretty town. Parks supervisor J.B. Hopkins and his co-workers enthusiastically execute their annual horticultural magic and even the least green thumbed among us marvel.
It’s hard work and the determination of the gardeners is rewarded by beautiful, ever-changing displays around town. Please thank them when you get an opportunity.
I have an annual gripe that hits each year around the middle of October. After a summer of watching our wading pool kept safe by two Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake lifeguards, it seems we cannot afford to keep the public washrooms open for use after Thanksgiving.
Our well-staffed tourism marketing staff plan a professional and creative strategy that draws visitors to our village. With all we have to offer, and some 110 million people living within a nine-hour drive, the summer months find busy accommodations, retail stores, restaurants and wineries.
Then, the real challenge arrives in October.
NOTL Tourism spends big dollars convincing visitors to come here. Unlike the lickers and clickers who fill our sidewalks during the high season, a different sort of visitor arrives to spend much more money per capita.
Just last weekend, I met three women from Rochester who were enjoying themselves after power-shopping their way through Irish Design, Beau Chapeau, Just Christmas and a few other shops. Their lavender NEOB bags told a story.
This was a big weekend spree for these return visitors to Niagara. Lunch at the Angel and then home.
But, soon after Thanksgiving, the good people who come here find it challenging to go here.
Just this Monday morning, I empathetically offered my Free Walking Tour guests the opportunity to use the public toilets in Queen’s Royal Park, with about 40 minutes left in our route to the “historic gazebo,” the Swimmers Rock, and the Polish Cemetery.
We also walk through the St. Mark’s Anglican Church cemetery, to give historian Donald Combe and Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock their due.
Three of the walkers took up the offer and the rest of us waited at the gazebo. A few minutes later, these somewhat distressed tour participants caught up to us. A bit shyly, they informed me the public washroom doors were locked tight. What to do?
Thank goodness they were able to tough it out and 30 minutes later we made it to the public facilities in Simcoe Park. They also were locked up tight, with no signage. I sent them across the street for an uncomfortable five-minute walk to the facilities behind the old Court House.
Thank goodness, those ones were open for business.
Like the Niagara Parks Commission, is it? The Parkway can be packed with tourists in late October or early May, but the Niagara Parks calendar tells them to make lives miserable.
A shout out for the good people at Walker’s Market and the area’s wineries. These smart business folks know if people use your facilities, they just might spend some money, too. And return.
I called the town office and was advised that the public washroom closing protocols were available on the town’s website. Closed soon after Thanksgiving.
So: We spend time, talent and lots of money to attract people to our town in the “off-season,” which is just plain good business. But shouldn’t we make it easy for people to do their business conveniently?
Plan your pit stops carefully when out for some exercise or a walk.
Life is good, but let’s pray for peace in our world.