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Niagara Falls
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Ross’s Ramblings: Will private roads lead to gated communities in our town?
Columnist Ross Robinson says private neighbourhoods are exclusionary and elitist.

Many thoughts that get into my head lead me to ramble. Only a few encourage me to think deeply.

While walking around town last weekend, two signs told me I wasn’t really welcome to walk on a few new streets.

“Royal Albion Place. You are entering a private residential community. Residents and invited guests only. Use road at your own risk.” And nearby, “No trespassing. George Manor residents only. Private road.”

My initial reaction was to chuckle at the word “royal.” This makes something sound classy. I suspect the developers have never even exchanged a letter or telephone call (or text or email) with the Royal Family in England.

Some 35 years ago, a pal and I were starting a croquet club in St. Catharines. We decided to call it the Royal St. Catharines Croquet Club, so when we travelled to the States, they would think we had a lot of class, eh?

And we did our best to play by the rules, show good manners and be polite to everyone. We fit in well and won more than our share of games in Palm Beach and Newport.

The Yanks assumed we had received royal assent for our club name.

The Royal Canadian Henley Regatta never received permission from the House of Windsor.  They just grabbed the word — and at the same time a heap of credibility.

And how about the Royal Woodbine Golf Club near the airport in Toronto or the Royal Niagara Golf Club out by the Outlet Collection at Niagara? The word royal has been bastardized, my friends. We are so gullible and easily impressed, eh?

Now let me ramble back to my issue with “private” streets here in Old Town. It has long been a fact that gated communities are a no-no in Canada.

Relatives of mine retired to Arbutus Ridge on Vancouver Island in 1985 and it was the next thing to a gated community: A fancy development aimed at senior citizens, with wonderful amenities.

It had golf, tennis, swimming, dining, an active recreation centre — well before pickleball swept the nation.

But no gates.

Canada has wonderful public education, universal health care, but we also like to share what our good lord gave us.

A friend of mine moved here from south Florida in 1996. It used to bother her when newly found Canadian friends would inquire why she would move north to Canada from the sunshine of Florida.

At a party one evening, she snapped. “What’s with you Canadians? Don’t you realize you live in one of the greatest countries in the world? Living in Florida is great, if you want to, and can afford to, send your kids to private school. And if you want to, and can afford to, live in a gated community.”

I have never forgotten her wise and worldly words.

O Canada, our home and native land.

During a conversation with someone at the Town of NOTL, I learned that these “private roads” do not receive maintenance services from the town. No snow clearance, no pot hole repair, no salting after snowfalls. These roads are not owned by the town, I was told.

Hmm, I pondered, what if their privately contracted snow plow dude didn’t get to their street on time and an emergency vehicle was unable to respond promptly?

Or if a driver, after being on clear roads on King and Cottage streets and then hit black ice on the still-snowy George Manor or Albion Place. The dreaded “L word” would quickly be part of the conversation.

Do these folk who want to enjoy private roads also want to enjoy our public education, universal health care, fire protection and police services?

How about sunsets and a glass of wine at Ryerson Park over in Chautauqua? Or pickleball or a swim at town facilities? Dog walking here and there?

I am doubtlessly overthinking this issue.

But let me ramble to a close by positing that we are all in this life together. We share space and help each other out. I just don’t like feeling like an intruder on streets in our wonderful wee town.

It seems to be a slippery slope. Might private roads lead to gated communities?

Tell me today your road is private. What’s the next logical step?

We are so fortunate to live in Canada … in 2023.

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