Once more, into the breach in Shakespeare

Mar 17, 2010

By Dale Goldhawk

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Remember Shakespeare? This is the little hamlet sitting serenely between Stratford and the Kitchener-Waterloo area, in central Ontario. Shakespeare was minding its own business, which is selling antiques and enjoying small town living, when the Ontario Ministry of Transport set in motion a plan to erase much of the main street with a four lane plus turning lane widening of the current two-lane blacktop. Why? Who really knows because all it will do is to save theatre goers about two minutes of time going and coming from Stratford. What did Joni Mitchell say about paving Paradise?

Well, after months of insisting there is only one route for a wider highway through the vicinity of Shakespeare, the ministry changed its tune and now has three routes under consideration. One is still the route through Shakespeare but the other two would leave the hamlet alone, sending traffic flow a mile or so to the south or to the north.

Now, the ministry isn’t giving reasons for its enlightenment but, between you and me, a citizen’s rally and a local committee formed to head off the widening of Highway 7 and 8 were the things that brought the MTO to its senses.

At a recent meeting of the Perth East Council, citizen power showed its clout again with a standing room only crowd featuring Shakespeare residents. They were out to hear the latest about the MTO’s new plans. The ministry is planning a 90 minute (7:00 – 8:30 pm) workshop tentatively set for Monday, March 8 at the Shakespeare Community Centre. It’s open to all interested stakeholders and will be used to ‘identify’ additional criteria to consider for the evaluation of Shakespeare area route alternatives.

A second workshop, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 27 from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm will likely be limited to 40 to 45 people. The purpose of this workshop is to review and refine evaluation criteria for Shakespeare area route alternatives, to review strengths and weaknesses of each route alternative and potential measures to enhance each route alternative and/or mitigate potential effects.

The bottom line of all this bureaucratic prose is that Shakespeare’s several hundred people have another chance to kill the plan to widen their main street.

I hope that every voter in Shakespeare heads for that community centre on March 8. I hope you will pack the place and make your feelings known to the engineers and other ministry types who will host the workshop. Tell them that pavement does not trump people. Tell them that drivers can pass by on one side or the other of the hamlet if they want to save a couple of minutes, or turn into ‘town’ for a browse in the antique shops and get a sausage and a piece of apple pie in a local restaurant and visit a few historical sites including the Fryfogel Tavern. Tell them that, after 185 years, Shakespeare is not ready to be bulldozed under.

We’ve done it before and we can do it again. We’re the people and once we get rolling, we can’t be stopped.

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