Tag Archives: Maple Creek

First Impressions Report – Maple Creek ideas

The first two articles in this series looked at the positive remarks and at the suggestions for improvement made by Maple Creek visitors to Unity.

Today, in the last article of the series, we take a look at some ideas Unity visitors to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, were inspired by, after travelling there for the day Aug. 27, 2014.

Carey Baker, Emma Baker, Nicole Goldsworthy, Sylvia Maljan, Marion Kelly, Sharon Cumming, Femi Ajayi and Helena Long were all part of the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association First Impressions exchange program between the Town of Maple Creek and the Town of Unity. With an eye to reporting back on both the positives and negatives of Maple Creek to potential new residents and investors, at least in terms of “first impressions,” the Unity group split up and spent the day driving and walking the streets, shopping at businesses, eating at cafés and restaurants and interacting with Maple Creek residents.

In the written reports filed by each participant afterwards, as well as discussed at subsequent meetings, the Unity group also looked at ideas from Maple Creek that could benefit Unity.

One promotional item Maple Creek uses received top marks for – an annual event brochure. In Maple Creek, the brochure was made in a triangular shape so it could stand on the tables at restaurants. It was also available at their tourist centre, town office, gas stations and other public places.

A Unity events brochure could include events such as Western Days activities, Celebrate Unity, the fall steak and lobster fundraiser supper, the wildlife supper, music festival, Canada Day activities and others and also a reference to the senior men’s hockey and baseball teams.

Visitors to Unity and potential visitors, like people stopping for fuel at the co-op C-store, picking up a sandwich at Subway or having lunch at the Armada, would get a glimpse into the lives of Unity residents and see some of the sport, recreational and cultural activities offered in town. The brochure would also be a reminder to residents of upcoming events.

Two other relatively inexpensive ideas that could be borrowed from the Town of Maple Creek were district tourism map placemats and a wedding registry.

The placemats at the restaurants in Maple Creek showed the town and all nearby points of interests on a map of the area.

A local kitchen store offered a wedding registry to local couples. Brides and grooms were able to “window shop” through the store and create their wish lists for wedding gifts, which the store then kept on file. Those shopping for shower or wedding gifts for the couple could access the list, which would be updated as purchases were made. The store displayed the list of upcoming marriages, complete with names and dates, so everyone would know who was getting married when.

First Impressions ReportSuch a wedding registry could easily be used in Unity to encourage local shopping for wedding and shower gifts. Although in Maple Creek, one store had taken the initiative, there’s no need to limit the registry to one store. Country Pantry is an obvious choice but North American Lumber, Delta Co-op Unity Home Centre, Crystal Clarity and Wildeman Sports Excellence are all other places one could buy unique and wanted gifts.

Downtown, Maple Creek had some empty storefronts. Many of those storefronts were decorated however, in some cases with large murals painted on the windows. The “first impression” was of a busy Main Street, and not of empty buildings.

First Impressions report

One wall in the museum at Maple Creek features photos of the graduating classes over the years. In Unity, these photos are on display at Unity Composite High School but anyone returning “home” for a visit during the summer months would not be able to see them.

Requiring some investment, and in some cases an entrepreneur, other wish list items included a bakery, a community garden, a splash and skate park, a laundromat and public showers and a tourist information centre.

Improvement is a never-ending process but it is nice to sometimes have some direction as to which way to go next. That’s exactly what the First Impressions program was intended to provide – some direction, whether from the report by Maple Creek residents or from the ideas brought home from Maple Creek by Unity residents.

Positive first impressions of Unity

What do visitors think of Unity, Saskatchewan? What’s the first impression our town makes on those just passing through or popping in for a quick visit? Are there things about our community — positive or negative — a traveller or guest notices that we have become so used to seeing, it’s no longer on our radar?

Answers to those questions were sought in August, 2014, when the Town of Unity and the Unity and District Chamber of Commerce took part in the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association’s “First Impressions” program. “Volunteers from two somewhat similar communities agree to do unannounced exchange visits and then report on their findings. Participants become ‘secret shoppers’ for the day to discover what they can about their sister city,” explains SEDA’s website.

Under the guidance of Carey Baker, economic development officer for the Town of Unity, Unity and Maple Creek were partnered up and one sunny day towards the end of August, eight individuals from the Town of Maple Creek descended unannounced upon the Town of Unity.

A comprehensive written report on their “first impressions” has now been received from the Maple Creek visitors. In this first of a three-part series on the First Impressions program, we will look at what these visitors saw as strengths and positives about Unity.

For the most part, the First Impressions participants were impressed with how clean and tidy our town is, along with the green space we have.

Some comments along this line included: “lots of green space & wide streets;” “town was very neat and tidy — streets, houses, yards;” “drove every street, only two residential lots were unkempt;” “despite being overwhelmingly the first thing one experiences upon arrival in Unity, the industrial areas and facilities are remarkably well maintained and landscaped;” “residential parks are peaceful & well maintained;” and “Parkview Place seniors’ housing impressed me in a positive way because of its beautiful grounds which includes benches, flowers, vegetable garden, & fruit trees.” Although school was not yet back in session, it was noted the grass was mowed in all the school playgrounds.

Of course the regional park with our ball diamonds was also referenced. One person said, “I was blown away by the ball diamond complex. It is vast and elaborate with amazing infrastructure from bleachers to scoreboards & announcer’s booths, to concession stands. The quality of everything was exquisite. Given the scale and immaculate condition of the baseball diamond complex, it appears as though Unity takes its baseball very, very seriously.”

Town of Unity ball diamonds

Another site which garnered a very favourable reaction was Pleasant View Cemetery. “The cemetery was spectacular! The setting amidst the wheat fields, the metal gateway arch, the landscaping design, the perimeter spruce rows, and the grooming. Easily the most beautiful, best landscaped, and most amazing cemetery I have seen.”

Pleasant View Cemetery

Along with the praise for the cleanliness of the town and the green space, our downtown murals were enjoyed by the visitors. One person said, “The murals made the downtown very striking, especially those on the fronts of buildings like the Funeral Home.”

In the report summary, four items were listed as the most outstanding feature of our community: community pride, murals and green space, the cemetery and the baseball diamonds.

Along with those things, positive feedback was received about residents’ access to health care. It was noted Unity has a resident dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, massage therapists, doctors and “seniors’ housing for all levels of care.”

The availability of other professional services in town such as banks, credit union, accountants, lawyers and financial planners was also commented on.

Other highlights mentioned in the evaluation by the volunteer visitors were the dog park, KC Rescue — “what a fantastic undertaking for a community of this size” — the “OpportUNITY” slogan and signage, the Courtesy Car and the cenotaph — “extraordinary!”

Cenotaph, Unity, Saskatchewan

Businesses of note included Country Pantry, Found Treasures, Wildeman’s Sports Excellence, Chase Pilates and “the crystal store,” most of which were referenced in several parts of the report including in answers to questions such as “what … would bring you back?”

Another noteworthy business was Maljan’s Shoe Repair. “The cobbler’s shop on Main Street was like stepping back in time. What a great business to still have operating within the community!”

The North American Lumber store building was a highlight: “Loved the lumber yard! What an incredible example of that era of lumber yard architecture with the central hardware shop and the two drive-through lumber sheds on either side … Modern tin aside, the building is a gem.”

Prior to the visit, the Maple Creek people had checked out the town and other websites. The town website received a number of favourable comment, including specific mention of the business directory and of the website in general being “easy to use.”

One person’s wrap-up comment about Unity was “It was different than I expected. I had expected it to look much  more tired and rundown, and it was crisp and clean.”

Perhaps these fresh eyes looking at our town will remind us all to stop and consider ho much our community has to offer both to residents and to visitors. That being said, no town is perfect, of course, and Unity is no exception, according to our “secret shopper” visitors. Stay tuned – next week we will post a summary of their suggestions for improvement.