Listen Up! Sometimes it takes a birthday bash
I have just come from a birthday party and consequently this is the first column I have ever written with two glasses of wine under my belt! And what a party it was! It reminded me again of how important community is, how important Huntsville is and how very important it is not to let go of our roots in this special part of Muskoka.
The celebration was in honour of Bob Hutcheson’s 90th birthday. There had to be two hundred people there to honour this man who has, along with generations of his family, contributed so much to the fabric of Huntsville. Bob was in fine fettle, telling everyone at the end of the luncheon that he looked forward to seeing us all here in the same spot, ten years from now! And well we might. This past winter, knowing his special birthday was approaching, Bob vowed to get in 90 days of downhill skiing and he did! Yesterday, he was water skiing with his grandchildren and next month he is going on a shooting trip to England. The guy never stops!
Bob’s grandparents were early settlers in Huntsville. They were in the lumber business for many decades and were large contributors to Huntsville’s economy. Over the years the Hutcheson family have contributed to much of the infrastructure in Huntsville, including the original cottage hospital and our present hospital. They donated the land for our cemetery and generations of their family, including Bob himself, have sat on Huntsville Council. If I remember correctly, Bob’s cousin Arthur, was a Mayor of Huntsville. There have been few projects in Huntsville’s history that did not involve the Hutcheson family.
Somewhere between the first and second glass of wine, all of this got me thinking about how important it is to remember how we got here, how Huntsville, small town though it may be, has come to be known far and wide, as a destination of choice and an enviable place to live. Also more importantly, how hard generations of Huntsville people have fought to ensure that this community has excellent health care facilities, fine schools, a diverse economic base and a strong tradition of sporting and cultural events. It occurred to me how important it is, for Huntsville to focus on preserving our identity, even as the tentacles of globalization (at least in terms of Muskoka) are sniffing at our doorstep.
Times do change but the foundations of our community do not. A full array of health care services, for instance, are still vital to the integrity of the Huntsville and North Muskoka communities and must not be allowed to slip away down the road as many other services have.
Just recently, the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce has announced that it is taking part in a feasibility study to consider a Muskoka Chamber of Commerce into which our local Chamber could merge. It is in my view, a terrible idea. Once again, we would be giving up control of our own destiny, our own identity and our ability to ensure unique marketing for the important North Muskoka business and tourist industries. We already have the Muskoka Tourist Association and I am at a loss to know what they have done for Huntsville other than to consume our tax dollars. While taking our Chamber of Commerce regional, if that is what they choose to do (and certainly, they have not yet come to that conclusion) may not be the end of the world, it would be just one more step in losing our identity as a strong North Muskoka community.
Bob Hutcheson’s birthday bash today, with so many people present who have contributed to the vitality of Huntsville, has reminded me of the importance of preserving our identity and insisting that we continue to have the ability to control and provide the infrastructure and services that are necessary to perpetuate the uniqueness of Huntsville for generations to come. Change is inevitable but let’s make sure we don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.
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