I attended another successful Douglas Day pioneer banquet this past weekend, and I am always inspired by the buzz in the room as our pioneers gather and greet each other. Just walking past the tables and listening to the snippets of conversations about school days or long ago Langley events makes me think about the amazing book sitting there in that room waiting to be written.
In Langley, we can boast that we have 260 people that meet the pioneer criteria, and have lived here continuously for more than 60 years. This year, 190 attended the event. I doubt many other communities across Canada could match that.
Our dignitaries in attendance addressed the gathering with honour and respect and each one of the speakers spoke of the community foundation that these people had laid down for the rest of us to build on. You only had to look around the room to see that all aspects of a solid community base were sitting at those tables.
There were carpenters and brick layers, teachers and tin smiths. We had nurses beside truckers and farmers beside lawyers. There were planners and politicians with artists and architects. There were musicians with plumbers, electricians next to accountants and butchers next to bankers. Every occupation and profession you would need to build a community was in that room.
But most of all, there was balance. After you build a foundation, the rest of the structure has to have balance and that is what we are so in danger of losing in our community today. We have to balance our green space with our growth. We have to balance our new people coming in with those who have been here a long time. We have to ensure that while providing for new people, the existing ones are not forgotten.
When each of these pioneer families settled here, they added to the community. They constructed roads, built stores, established commerce. When we develop properties now, we attract many that live here but work outside the community. Many of the developers who build here now work here, but live elsewhere. We are losing the balance that comes from people moving to a community to build and work and be part of the growth.
When I get nostalgic, I jump in my old pick-up and travel along 16 Avenue and wind my way down to the farms in Glen Valley. That is the Langley I grew up in. The 10-car B.C. Hydro train was no problem, because there was seldom a car at the crossing when it went by any anyway. But we started selling off farmland and encouraging people to come to Langley and they did, making us one of the fastest growing communities in the province.
But somewhere along the way, the scales started to tip and we started losing our balance. When the pioneers recognized a need for more growth, they built the roads first, they didn’t plunk families in the middle of a field and say, “Good luck, find your own way in and out,” like we do now.
The people who live here have to tell the planners and builders who don’t that we want to stand still for a minute, catch our balance and then re-focus. We want a community we can live in comfortably for the next 60 years. At least that’s what McGregor says.