President, West Rouge Community Association
Standing up for Scarborough
Did you hear about the big kerfuffle this past winter? It was during City Council’s ward boundary hearings. Residents of the Beach heard that their community might be joined together with … wait for it … part of Scarborough! Yikes! How awful is that? As it turned out, the universe unfolded as it should and the eastern boundary of the Beach ward remains at Victoria Park Avenue, unsullied by its eastern neighbour.
The pushback by the Beach community was certainly a good chuckle for those of us who follow these things. But it was discouraging too, as the discussion framed Scarborough in tiresome stereotypes.
But at another level, I could understand what the Beachers were saying. The Beach is a tight-knit community. Its residents are proud to call the Beach home. The Beach has distinctive natural and physical features and, to some extent, a distinctive culture.
The same can be said of Scarborough. Not Scarborough as a whole though, because Scarborough is not homogeneous. Rather, Scarborough is a collection of diverse and distinctive neighbourhoods. Here in West Rouge, we are among the most vibrant and best defined of those neighbourhoods thanks to clear natural and physical boundaries, a proud history, distinctive natural features, engaging community organizations, our own community centre, and local gathering points.
So it’s frustrating when downtown-centric commentators and policy makers look upon suburban living with distain.
Toronto is lucky to offer such a wide range of neighbourhood choices. Some are attracted to the buzz of downtown living and are willing to overlook the noise, limited green space, high housing costs, and congestion that come with this. In fact, for some, congestion is part of the attraction! Others have different priorities and make different choices. That’s what we have chosen to do in West Rouge. Yes we’re further away from certain amenities and some of us have longer commutes. But there are so many things to like about living here. Green space. Fresh air. Rouge Park. The waterfront trail. No congestion. A bit of a village feel. Small wonder why some adult children of West Rouge residents return here to raise their own families.
Scarborough has challenges, of course. But we’re working on them. I am thrilled to see the work of the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization, the Scarborough Business Association, and the Institute for New Suburbanism (rooted here in Scarborough) as they look to reframe how people think of Scarborough in particular and suburban living in general and encourage our government leaders to invest in our community. All of these organizations were spawned by another local organization – Scarborough’s five Rotary Clubs. As a Rotary Club member, I am proud of the work that Scarborough’s Rotary Clubs have done to engage Scarborough’s anchor institutions (including University of Toronto Scarborough) and its community organizations to work collectively toward a common objective.
The motto of the City of Toronto is “Diversity Our Strength”. One way for the City to breathe life into this is to allow its many neighbourhoods to nurture those features and cultures which make each neighbourhood special. That’s tough to do sometimes in a big, amalgamated city with one-size-fits-all rules and standards. But this is what makes big cities livable.
And who knows. Maybe some day, those Beach residents will look contemplatively east of Victoria Park Avenue and say, “Scarborough – now that’s a pretty cool place!”