There are so many things to love about Ladysmith — our energetic community of volunteers, gorgeous waterfront, many parks and trails providing ample outdoor recreation opportunities, and our friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Included in these many highlights is Ladysmith’s historic downtown. In fact, I may be slightly biased, but in my view, First Avenue, which combines an iconic streetscape reminiscent of the 1900s with the modern conveniences of the 21st century, has played a pivotal role in helping to shape Ladysmith’s identity as a charming, diverse and vibrant west coast community.
Once serving a significant population of coal miners who worked at the Extension Coal Mine, today First Avenue reflects Ladysmith’s rich history with a variety of restored and brightly-painted heritage buildings that stand as reminders of their importance during Ladysmith’s formative years. Many of the buildings are represented on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, and as the bustling hub of Ladysmith’s historic downtown area, on any given day First Avenue remains a noteworthy street that highlights a vibrant legacy and provides a constant source of community pride. Recent examples include the newly installed rainbow crosswalk at First and Gatacre and the colourful Canada 150 banners that symbolically represent the growing partnership between the Town and the Stz’uminus First Nation.
With that, I would like to encourage all Ladysmith residents to showcase your collective pride in our incredible community by voting for First Avenue in the Great Places in Canada competition. This national contest, hosted by the Canadian Institute of Planners, recognizes great streets, public spaces or neighbourhoods in communities across the country. The Town of Ladysmith will submit an official nomination for First Avenue. Between August 17 and October 17, residents, the business community and other stakeholders near and far are invited to show their support by voting once per day for First Avenue as a People’s Choice Place at http://greatplacesincanada.ca/vote/.
The first year of the Great Places in Canada competition, Nanaimo’s Commercial Street received the award for Canada’s Great Street. That was back in 2011. Since then, many of the winners have been located in Eastern Canada. I know that together, we can bring Ladysmith’s historic First Avenue to the forefront and showcase the significance of this street. The next time you meander down First Avenue, meet a friend at a restaurant, poke around your favourite shop or specialty store or just sit on one of the many benches to people watch, think about the many qualities that make this place special. Think about what makes First Avenue great. Then, when you get home, take a moment to vote for First Avenue. With one click of a mouse, you can send a powerful message that First Avenue is not only a symbol of small town warmth and charm, it acts as an anchor for the community, setting the stage for celebrations, gatherings and day to day life in Ladysmith. First Avenue is a special place indeed, one deserving of such an important accolade. Please don’t forget to vote once per day beginning August 17!