From long-established Georgestown, to brand-new Galway, the look and feel of every neighbourhood is distinctly different. And the way people define a neighbourhood varies too.
A neighbourhood can be a loose collection of city streets and blocks; it can also be a more tightly defined complex, such as those represented by a tenant association.
Many St. John’s neighbourhoods have informal neighbourhood groups, and a smaller number have formal neighbourhood associations. Informal groups can be as simple as Facebook groups, or as casual chats over coffee about neighbourhood issues, while formal groups are usually incorporated associations with elected boards.
All these groups share common goals: bringing a voice to their residents, and building a sense of community in the place they call home. These groups strive to bring residents’ concerns and desires for their neighbourhood into public conversations between neighbours, and often include their City Councillors in those discussions.
At Happy City St. John’s, we celebrate these groups and encourage them to establish and grow. To this end, the inaugural St. John’s Neighbourhood Summit will be at the new Signal Hill Campus on September 22nd (54 Battery Road).
This full-day event includes a plenary session on why neighbourhood associations can benefit our city, and how to establish, maintain, and legitimize one in your neighbourhood.
This full-day event includes a plenary session on why neighbourhood associations can benefit our city, and how to establish, maintain, and legitimize one in your neighbourhood. There will be several more sessions with expert panels covering such topics as keeping your neighbourhood safe, finding and using green space, and connecting your group with City Council.
Happy City invites citizens from all regions of St. John’s, whether in a group or not, to join us in talking about the value of having a neighbourhood group in your community.
A very recent example of an informal neighbourhood group significantly benefiting its community is how Kenmount Terrace Facebook groups responded during and after the near-catastrophic forest fire on July 9th. Residents used these informal groups to alert one another of the fire and need to evacuate, and communicated with one another about ways to help: for example, offering transportation during the evacuation, monitoring neighbours’ properties for damage, and rescuing pets.
The group then came together in the weeks following the fire to organize and host a barbeque. Volunteers and City Councillors joined residents in thanking the first responders and celebrating the safety of their neighbourhood.
An established, formal group is the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association (GNA). Like many neighbourhood associations, the catalyst for its birth was a single issue. However, the GNA recognized early on that it is community building that keeps associations alive. GNA has two arms – one works on issues as they arise, often in consultation with City officials, the other organizes community events, such as the winter skating party, the summer flea market and barbecue, and one or two talks throughout the year.
These are just two of the groups representing the colourful tangle of neighbourhoods in our city. Happy City is excited to hear citizens’ ideas, questions, and thoughts about neigbourhood groups at the Neighbourhood Summit on September 22nd.
Article by Catherine Burgess