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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Trial project set to run until Sept. 30
The change was delayed due to logistical issues but Wolfville’s one-way Main Street trial project is now underway.
Mayor Jeff Cantwell said the change to make a portion of Main Street one-way as part of the Stay Healthy Main Street Project took place at 2 p.m. on July 8. The trial project, which runs until Sept. 30, had originally been scheduled to begin on Canada Day.
Cantwell said there were a few logistical issues at play, including activity surrounding the July 1 holiday and problems getting all necessary materials in place on time. They opted to wait to ensure that they could make the switch “safely and properly.”
The flow of traffic on the one-way portion is easterly. Westbound traffic is being directed down Harbourside Drive, along Front Street, up Elm Avenue and back onto Main Street.
Cantwell said he thinks the new configuration is “fantastic” and he has been hearing positive comments from people he has spoken with on the street.
“The people I talked to last week and on the weekend are absolutely very excited about it,” he said. “There are more positives than negatives.”
Cantwell said the town has set up cameras and is closely monitoring the situation, including having staff members keep an eye on things. The trial project is intended to help facilitate social distancing in light of COVID-19 and promote active transportation. It’s also an attempt to bolster business in the vicinity by increasing walk-in traffic.
“It appears from my unscientific survey that foot traffic and numbers seem to be at least the same if not up in the downtown business area,” he said.
A work in progress
Although it’s too early to draw any conclusions, Cantwell pointed out that there has been two-way traffic on the street for more than 200 years and not everyone has bought-in to the change. He said the town still has a way to go before there will be solid data to inform and guide further decisions.
If it appears the project is “a dismal failure” in the sense that businesses in the area are being negatively impacted, the project probably wouldn’t continue past the trial period. If successful, the possibility exists that the change could become seasonal or permanent.
Another reason for the trial project is to help promote a greater sense of community in the downtown. Cantwell described it as being an “almost festival atmosphere” in the early days of the experiment with people taking advantage of the pedestrian-friendly environment. He expects more people will come to like the changes with time.
Cantwell said it is a work in progress and the initial design will likely be tweaked along the way to make it more comprehensive.
Main Street business reaction
Wolfville Business Development Corporation (WBDC) co-president Lynda Macdonald, director of Main Street’s Harvest Gallery, said the reaction of businesses to the plan is mixed. Some love it and some don’t.
There are those who are willing to give it a try and are waiting to see the results. She said the biggest hurdle will be measuring the success of the pilot in a summer where business is “anything but usual.”
Macdonald said town staff were out the day following implementation to record the initial reactions of businesses to the plan. This is expected to continue over the next couple of months and Macdonald said it will be interesting to see how or if the mood changes.
“I’m a business owner and I’m both excited and curious to see how things go,” Macdonald said in a July 15 email. “These are unprecedented times that demand creativity, open-mindedness, patience and sometimes bold decisions.”
Macdonald said she has had very positive feedback from clients who frequent Wolfville and normally love the bustling streets but said they would not have felt safe coming during the COVID-19 pandemic if not for the changes made to Main Street.
“I have also heard from other businesses that they are at (COVID) capacity and are hearing similar comments from their customers,” Macdonald said. “Still, other businesses have dissenting opinions.”
She said the top concern businesses are hearing about from customers is parking. Spaces on the north side of Main Street have been eliminated as part of the project. However, at the root of the pilot is a desire to create an environment that encourages residents and visitors to get out of their cars and safely enjoy the downtown.
On the other hand, there are now more accessible parking spaces than before and curb cut-outs were completed prior to the switch to one-way traffic. Macdonald said the town has added all-day parking at Acadia University’s Festival Theatre and behind the Wolfville Baptist Church, so this should help address the parking issue.
“Change is hard and 2020 has been all about change,” Macdonald said. “I guess we all have to be ready and willing to pivot as the situation dictates.”
Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Judy Rafuse said on July 14 that they haven’t received any feedback from Wolfville businesses with regard to the one-way Main Street project.
Did you know?
On June 23, Cayle Eagles started an online petition on www.change.org called “Keep Main Street Wolfville a two way street.” The initial goal was 1,000 signatures and, as of late morning on July 15, it had been signed by 1,256 people. The goal is now 1,500 signatures.