Wolfville: the small town example

The little green town in the Annapolis Valley puts ecological issues high on their municipal agenda.

The first page of the Wolfville municipal website shows the importance the town of a little under 4,000 puts on being ecologically sustainable. Along with the budget planning notifications and community services guide is a column dedicated to green initiatives: A green mobility forum meeting and a town council sustainable community planning task force unveiling a second draft of its municipal planning strategy.

"It's the biggest component of our work," says Andrew Fry, the director of community services for the Town of Wolfville, of the municipal planning. Fry outlines changes in building height restrictions to increase density in Wolfville's downtown by having more residential space above commercial storefront property, changing rules about parking, encouraging walking by designing wider sidewalks, benches, information kiosks, more public spaces, considering a pedestrian street, so "you can live and work downtown and walk wherever you go."

Bicycle lanes are a big issue in rural areas as well, where cyclists have to share narrow roads with trucks and cars. The town has partnered with the Ecology Action Centre to explore sustainable transportation possibilities and training exercises. "How do we expect people to move towards sustainable transit if there are no bicycle lanes?" asks Fry.

In April 2007, Wolfville was recognized by TransFair Canada as the first Fair Trade town in Canada, meaning that it met certain criteria---per capita use of fair trade coffee and other products in businesses, in government offices, schools and the community---for offering products created in both a socially and environmentally sustainable way both at home and abroad. "It was encouraging people to think of the impact of consumption both economically and environmentally."

Fry is disappointed to find that the province's Department of Transportation and Public Works is "essentially a department of roads and cars" with their ongoing efforts to twin highways. He notes that there are inexpensive electric cars manufactured in Montreal that don't go above 50 kilometres an hour, which are illegal on Nova Scotian roads, but would be great people-carriers in small rural communities.

And before you think it's only the municipality with all the big ideas, check out the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia University for their wonderful collection of native plants. Or visit Hatt En Kul eco-friendly apparel shop at 378 Main. Or go to Tempest Restaurant at 117 Front, which specializes in local and organic food. Or go shopping at the dynamite farmers' market. What's important here is that the people have demanded change and change is happening.

"It does have to start with the consumer," says Fry. "People have to want to buy the product, the businesses aren't going to just switch over. And people [here] go into businesses and ask for fair trade and local products."

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