The Remaking of Rothesay
New Brunswick’s Town of Rothesay is picturesquely posed beside the Kennebecasis River whose waters are seeped with a rich history of supporting enterprises in shipbuilding as well as recreational and competitive pursuits in yachting and rowing. Though Rothesay’s history dates back more than a 150 years ago, the town of today was formed through the 1998 amalgamating of five distinct communities – East Riverside-Kingshurst, Fairvale, Renforth, Rothesay and Wells – an event still honored in the town’s motto of “Quinque Iuncta In Uno” (or Five United In One). For a community born from collaboration, city leaders continue to rely on collaboration when it comes to making infrastructure improvements, embracing an approach similar to that of teams who participate in the town’s annual regatta, and in this case, community engagement and communication help ensure all are “Paddling in the Right Direction.”
The Town of Rothesay is a shining example of a success that stems from simply paying attention to small details and empowering community residents to help make decisions beneficial to the community.
With the aspiration to be the number one residential choice in New Brunswick, Rothesay holds an almost unrivaled reputation in the province; the highest per capita income, low tax rates, and leading residential community of choice to neighboring Saint John (the largest city in the province of New Brunswick).
Neither this aspiration, nor the execution to get there, would be possible however, without the support (and in some case, guidance) of the community who share this vision.
“I believe the Worst thing you can say to your taxpayers is ‘this is what we are doing’” explains Brett McLean, the town’s Director of Operations, “I’m a public servant, and these are the people I serve.”
One of the major initiatives currently in the town is the Hampton Road project; the main artery through the town in which the high school, businesses, and town hall all connect. The goal is to widen the driving surface to allow for dedicate bicycle lanes, add green space, and have people in the town (whether residents or passing through) “stop and smell the roses,” says McLean. While the goal to further develop the small town feel of the main corridor of Rothesay is not necessarily unique to the location, the execution has been far from ordinary, especially in terms of eliciting input from all the local businesses established along that corridor
“What we’re doing in this case,” states McLean, “is scheduling private meetings with designers and stakeholders and simply asking them the question, ‘How do you see this working?’”
A gutsy move from the town, but one that has not only involved the community that will be affected by these changes, but in some cases, puts them in the driver’s seat for how the process will be handled.
“We get a lot of feedback; some very positive, obviously some criticism, but some also giving great suggestions,” adds McLean. “Some of the changes include building channeling curb islands in the middle turning lane, thus to not oppose oncoming traffic and having businesses on a corner street to put their main driveway on a side street that flows to Hampton Road”.
Lastly, the beautification of this road will largely be put in the hands of the businesses it supports, not only giving the stakeholders of the corridor the opportunity to add their touch in creating aesthetic allure around their business, but it also subsequently limits the amount of tax-paid work that the Parks and Recreation Department would otherwise have to maintain.
It is in that concept that the strength of this community can develop without harboring around one entity, process, or industry. The strength of the community is from the community. An exceptional quality of life: access to a beautiful river, enhanced by tree-lined streets, and abundant green spaces, strong community pride, and a well-managed fiscally healthy town are only three examples of this ideal before highlighting their solid foundation of infrastructure in their roads and town utilities.
“There are currently three other streets in town that are part of a separate rehabilitation project,” advises McLean. “The goal, again, being to allow bicycles, promote beautification, and importantly, slowing motorists down and reducing speeds through this beautiful town.”
Showcasing the beauty and heritage of the town remains a paramount objective to the community. Acting as the neighbor to Saint John, the first incorporated city in Canada, McLean says there is also an importance to preserve Rothesay’s heritage as it grows and develops as a community of its own.
One of the most significant projects to outline this concept is the redevelopment of the Rothesay Common. The area to undergo transformation is the town square, set to boast an artificial ice rink, basketball courts and an outdoor amphitheatre. While, again, not necessarily a unique project, the execution is done with a poise and attention to detail not usually highlighted in a town this size.
“The service building for the Common will be built in with Queen Anne Revival style,” McLean says, “so the architecture will fit in similar to the homes around it”.
Further to the discipline and commitment to heritage the planning department maintains, they have stayed true to the covenant originally posted on the grounds from the two sisters who donated the space in the 1930’s, advising that no alcohol shall be served or consumed in the Common. So even with the beautification of the area, the use of the creek that runs through it as an aesthetic feature, and the upcoming events that will take place in the amphitheatre and ice rink, a ‘beer tent’ will not be one of them.
While preserving the heritage and history of a town is a trend seen across the globe, what is rarely seen in the same area, is the devout sense of sustainability and environmental management which Rothesay has not only maintained, but lead from the front.
“To demonstrate this, we as a community are subject to minimum regulated standards the same as every community in New Brunswick with respect to waste water treatment and disposal, but our policy makers made the decision to be leaders in Waste Water treatment,” McLean advises. “The majority of smaller municipalities in New Brunswick, including Rothesay, treat waste through the lagoon method, but we are at the pre-design phase for reconfiguring sewage collection network for the entire town.”
What Rothesay will be able to do, post project, is take all waste water to one treatment plant. The technology planned for this plant will protect the integrity of the river. While many other similar communities struggle to meet discharge guidelines, Rothesay will be targeting levels that are 50-65% below federally regulated levels, and without the use of chemical additives.
Rothesay also had the provinces first micro filtration GE water treatment plant in the late 90’s, thus maintaining the low wastage and very high quality treated ground water, and lastly, Rothesay had their ground water wellfield designated and protected by the province, and then purchased the majority of lands in the contributing watershed (over 1000+ acres of land) so that the community could truly control what happens in their watershed.
All in all, with infrastructure developments always playing as big of a hindrance as they do a benefit, the goal of this town is simple yet unique; to prepare for the future and incorporate advancement of the modern era that doesn’t forsake the heritage historic aesthetic. This is accomplished with a basic commitment and respect to not only the area, but the community that will forever act as the backbone to the success or failure of the town, which is demonstrated simply through basic communication and trust.
As Mclean says, “The public won’t always like what we are doing, might not thank us for it, but they have to understand it, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they do.”
For more information, please visit their website at: The Town of Rothesay
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