WINGHAM — Last August a committee of six people from Walkerton and surrounding area travelled to Wingham as part of the first impressions community exchange (FICE) program provided by OMAFRA.
The program aims to give communities a fresh perspective on how they are seen through the eyes of first-time visitors by pairing similar towns for this exchange program, then presenting their first impressions.
Doug Kuyvenhoven, chair of the Wingham BIA, welcomed the group which included BIA members from both Wingham and Walkerton as well as members of North Huron council and staff to the FICE presentation at the Maitland River Community Church on Feb. 8.
“We’re here to hear constructive criticism about our town. We’re not here to be defensive … constructive criticism is good and that’s really what FICE is about,” Kuyvenhoven said.
In the report presented, the Walkerton committee commented that while driving through Wingham for the first time the entrance signs from south and north were beautifully displayed and manicured; the main street was clean and attractive; there was beautiful historic buildings; a good mix of commercial and green spaces and wide main street with ample parking.
While passing by, the committee also said there didn’t appear to be many vacant storefronts, when actually there are over 20. They complemented on the way the empty storefronts were displayed and taken care of.
The one negative comment was that the banners on the light posts were not unique and appeared to “have seen better days”. Kuyvenhoven commented that the local BIA previously decided that those specific banners would not be put back up on the light posts this summer.
The Walkerton committee also commented that there was little reference to service clubs on welcome signs at the perimeter of the town.
The lake of directional signage to sports fields, river and or parks was also a comment of the visiting committee, and is a current project of the Wingham BIA.
Also lacking signage is the municipal office, although it is located centrally in one of the towns beautiful historic buildings, it is hard for visitors to identify it as the municipal office.
Connie Goodall, economic development co-ordinator for the Township of North Huron, said, “This is really what people’s first impressions are when they come to our community.”
See the full Walkerton report here.