Last year, my family went for a walk on Christmas Day. The grass was green. The sky was blue. Halfway down the road to the park, I took off my jacket. With predictions for the coldest winter in fifteen years, it’s pretty clear we won’t be doing that this year. “A good old fashioned Canadian winter,” is how one newscaster described what’s happening with the weather these days, not only in my part of the world, but across the country. Snow, snow and, oh, yeah, some snow. It’s more like the deep heart of winter than late fall. This picture is what we woke up to this morning, with buses shut down and schools closed.
In Wasaga Beach, Ontario, another town in Simcoe County, this weekend was a bit more like the middle level of hell than any winter wonderland. On Friday, most of the arcade of historic buildings along the longest freshwater beach in the world were consumed by fire. Ankle deep in white sand, these wooden storefronts and snackbars were a relic of the easygoing past of Georgian Bay’s Wasaga Beach. Built in the 1930s, many were already faced with possible demolition. A developer has been buying them up, armed with a plan to turn the whole area into a mock New Orleans. Thankfully, the city has not given consent.
These kinds of developments really bug me. Travellers crave authenticity and so resorts and tourist towns give it to them – creating false ‘villages’ and ‘small towns’ at the expense of their own history and heritage. Case in point: Collingwood, where the historic downtown is often overshadowed by Blue Mountain’s faux alpine village. Many people simple stay in the Village and don’t even venture into the first historically-designated downtown in Ontario.
Several people have lost their businesses in Wasaga Beach but the community has also lost a little bit of itself. The wonderfully ramshackle arcade area where sunbathers bought hot-dogs and ice cream cones in their bare feet will never be the same. No matter what sort of fresh face they put on the area, that summer memory is sadly long gone.