Kinburn workshop a lively discussion

KINBURN – The event was designed to initiate discussion and develop ideas. From the buzz in the Dr. Roly Armitage Hall it appeared as if the Sustainability in West Carleton workshop on June 11 achieved its goal.

Around 42 community residents came out to take part in the discussion and create some ideas to improve sustainability in West Carleton.

“In my experience, that is a really good turnout for any event in June,” Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City (BEC) past president and workshop leader James Birtch told West Carleton Online last week (June 18). “As you know, we postponed the consultations for four weeks because of the flood. Glad we did.”

West Carleton Online was present at the workshop and witnessed groups of individuals discussing ideas and leading brainstorming work in a variety of different ways.

“People were quite animated in their conversations,” Birtch said. “I started building networks last August. We have community association representatives, the West Carleton Family Health Team, Women’s Institutes, the Deep Roots Food Hub, any group I could find. I think there were a lot of regular folks too.”

This was the second sustainability workshop hosted by the BEC and the first rural one. Group ideas were shared and put in to four categories – food, health, waste and sense of place. Some suggestions included creating a four-season farmers’ market, a community commercial kitchen, creating a sense of place through sports teams, connecting seniors with students, truly ideas all over the map.

“Who knows how viable they are,” Birtch said. “A four-season farmers’ market is a great idea, but you have to scope it out.”

Birtch has also seen community kitchens work in other communities.

“That’s already happening in Smith Falls,” he said. “People who want to open a restaurant can practice.”

Birtch said what was important is the consensus-building nature of the workshops.

“When people get together, that’s when you get the pieces of the puzzle,” he said. “Lots of neat ideas.”

Birtch said the two meetings held so far – one in Hintonburg and one in Kinburn – had several things in common.

“The focus was the same,” he said. “People got really involved in their conversations and wanted to keep going. But the topics were broader in West Carleton. I’m really looking forward to the plan.”

Birtch said West Carleton was a good place to start for the rural component.

“There was a challenge – West Carleton is so big,” he said. “Life is pretty simple there. The area is very interesting and has a lot of people with a high education, experience, diversity and history. It’s unique and has something to offer the other rural areas.”

Now that the meeting is over, Birtch is excited about the next steps.

“We want people to read the plan and have it motivate people,” he said. “There will be a wide variety of projects. We’ll be looking to follow up and put together a committee.”

Birtch says about six months down the road there will be a follow up report.

“What has happened?” he said. “What projects have come online? We will help keep it alive.”

And because BEC is a registered charity, “we can get grants others can’t. But we can’t make any promises.”

Birtch says the BEC looks at each idea “case by case.”

“But it’s not that hard to get a $600 or $800 grant and that’s often all a project needs,” he said.