As many readers know, I am a strong advocate for Amherst. When I write about the town I use words like ‘lovely’ and ‘quaint’ and refer to this town as my beautiful adopted home, chosen by me. I pride myself on being one of those ‘come from away’ Amherstonians.
So I was gob smacked when I recently took a road trip around the South Shore of the province. Gob smacked because ... because ..... it is beautiful. And although this is difficult to say, perhaps more beautiful than Amherst.
It isn’t that there are more old stately homes than here. I don’t believe there are. That’s not the issue. And it isn’t that the down towns are necessarily more vibrant than ours. Some are but that isn’t the issue. And it isn’t that they have nicer buildings than we have. Because they don’t. It isn’t that. Nor is it the way the towns are set up. They have green spaces. We have green spaces. No. It’s more than that. They have .... pride. Pride in their homes, their businesses, their yards, their streets, their lawn decor outside their homes. Obvious pride in their living spaces. We drove down back streets to see if the entire grounds of various towns were well manicured or was it just the touristy main streets. It was all streets. None of the towns had shoddy areas.
Why would this be? Why haven’t all occupants of Amherst, whether owner or renter, taken this approach to where they live? Keeping the grass cut to a reasonable level, removing garbage from a yard, pulling weeds from a garden - none of these actions need cost anything but time. And everyone has time for those things they deem important. Pride is not a money thing. It’s an internal thing that says much about ourselves as individuals.
It’s a sad commentary on life that towns even have a need for an Unsightly Premises Act. Why are living/working areas not kept to an acceptable standard and not just because they should be but because the owners/renters/workers want it to be. If someone has no interest in keeping their neighbourhood up to snuff, then they should not be living in a neighbourhood. Move out to the country and hide your garbage behind trees. (Note that the environmental me can’t believe I just wrote that.) But it’s true. People presumably live in a neighbourhood because it offers them something - give something back in return.
I give kudos to our town council and to the downtown area for the beautiful flower gardens and hanging plants. To those workers who weed/water and hoe, I thank you. What you do is appreciated and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. However, there are far too many areas in this town with decrepit homes and uncut lawns. On our week-long South Shore travels, I could count on one hand the number of problematic residences encountered.
I know the town cannot react to an unsightly premise without being made officially aware. This shouldn’t be the requirement. The Unsightly Premises directive should stand on its own merit. However, that being said where the reality, as it stands now, is that a complaint must be made, I will start complaining. Allowing these premises to exist detrimentally affects our town, the value of our homes, and the impression left with visitors. So help me bombard the town with official complaints. Let’s follow the lead of the South Shore so I can continue to refer to my town as lovely and quaint.
Sheila Graham is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel