Friday, March 13, 2015


We're now entering the Season of the Pothole, a yearly event that occurs when the snow starts to melt, revealing crater-sized potholes in local roads. Every year, citizens complain and every year, the bigger holes get filled in and the cycle begins anew.

Meanwhile, our fledgling local council seems more concerned about spending taxpayer dollars to build a school's theatre and to subsidize Jim Thibert's hobby race track than to address the real concerns of its constituents.

The other day, I made a trip over to Buffalo (first time in months.)  We had to make a stop at Ted's on Sheridan Drive for lunch. (I still miss the Ted's at Front Park, long gone due to Peace Bridge "expansion.") As we were getting into the car, a friendly guy asked us how our shopping expedition was going. we laughed and said "fine" realizing he had seen the Canadian license plate. So we got talking and he told us his family had a place in Thunder Bay. (Which means that he also pays taxes to Fort Erie.) He also said he was worried about "all the building going on in the area." So, then we talked about THE BAY BEACH TOWER. He was so glad that it wasn't going to be built ("Of Course," you might say, "he's an American summer resident.") True. But he also has a long memory of the joys of living near the beach within a few miles of Buffalo. Me too. That's why I stayed here all those years ago.

And that's why I continue to speak out when greedy, foolish people attempt to destroy the beauty and uniqueness of Fort Erie.  Personally, I think the Speedway is a bad idea for Fort Erie. It is already obvious that there would need to be significant changes and improvements to the infrastructure in order to support the speedway. The added stress to the Peace Bridge has not even been mentioned in the discourse so far. Why would anyone want such a noisy attraction so close to the town? My friend in Brooklyn, Michigan (home of a NASCAR track) tells me that race days are a nightmare in her small town. Residents cannot even leave their homes because the traffic is so severe and the noise is deafening. If the speedway is built with minimum funding from the taxpayers, then so be it. I believe that the whole thing is a tax rip-off and the people will be paying for it for generations. And, it will never be built.

All one needs to do is look across the border at the renaissance of Buffalo to see what can be done. For years, Buffalo was part of the Rust Belt, stagnating in its own lack of vision. Things changed when people with ideas and solutions came forward. Now Buffalo ends up near the top of polls on best places to live.

Those of us who lived in Buffalo all know of its great features, including the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I'll tell you a story of one such treasure and how it went from near demolition to glory. It was a hard-fought, years long battle to save what my grandmother used to call "The Larkin Estate."  It was actually the Darwin Martin Home, built for and owned by the Martin Family, the wife, a daughter of the Larkin Soap Company's founder.

By the time I became aware of it, it was a run-down shell, slated for demolition. Three of its outer buildings had already been destroyed. An architect and his family bought the place and tried to restore it but the costs to do so were prohibitive. It was then sold a number of times until a group of people started a non-profit organization in 1992 to restore the complex to its former glory. It now stands as a shining example of the work of Wright and it is a major tourist draw as well.  The Martin Complex is a couple of blocks from my old stomping grounds, just steps from the Buffalo Zoo which rests in the Olmstead-designed Delaware Park. Such history, now preserved for future generations. By a city that was near extinction.

Fort Erie needs to go through its own renaissance in order to survive. Its greatest asset, its waterfront, has been exploited for personal gain by any number of people over the years. Its historic lighthouse on Point Abino was allowed to become a crumbling shell. Thanks to a dedicated group of people, the lighthouse is now restored. Access is easy? No. Is there easy access to any number of lighthouses, or for that matter, national historic treasures? No. Can anyone just walk into the Darwin Martin Complex whenever they feel like it? No. My friend and I are going to take a tour through it this spring. Costs $30.00 a person. I will give it gladly because I appreciate that this wonderful place was saved to give people the opportunity to see a genius' work.

Perhaps, along Dominion Road somewhere, a sign could be erected advising motorists that the road was voted one of the worst in all of Ontario. Could win this year as well. Well, it's something anyway.