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TERRENCE MCEACHERN: Borden-Carleton will soon have a sense of ways it can make a good first impression

Lobster boats are moored in the shadow of the “Stonehenge-like” former fabrication yard in Borden-Carleton in this file photo. Borden-Carleton residents want tourists to experience the town beyond Gateway Village. BRIAN MCINNIS/THE GUARDIAN
Lobster boats are moored in the shadow of the “Stonehenge-like” former fabrication yard in Borden-Carleton in this file photo. Borden-Carleton residents want tourists to experience the town beyond Gateway Village. BRIAN MCINNIS/THE GUARDIAN

A firm handshake. Nice suit. Big smile. Eye contact.

These are some of the things that make a good first impression.

Ripped jeans. Scruffy beard. Bad breath.

Not so much.

But what about a border town? What are some of the things that make a good or bad first impression?

It’s an interesting concept.

On Tuesday evening, P.E.I.’s border town of Borden-Carleton will have a better sense of some of the things it can do to make a good first impression at the unveiling of its master spatial plan.

We don’t usually notice border towns that much when we drive from province to province. Except for British Columbia, I’ve driven through all of them along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Nice places, but I don’t recall any of them being interesting enough to make me pull over for a tourist stop.

Then again, none of those places have the Confederation Bridge at its doorstep.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is on board to help pay for the new initiatives in Destination Borden-Carleton. The hope is that private investors will also play a role.

Borden-Carleton STEP Working Group members Mayor Dean Sexton, Bonnie Martin and Barbara Wood are anxiously waiting for the unveiling.

They filled me in last week about some of the reasons behind wanting a plan to rejuvenate the town and make better use of its public space.

The one that applies to me is giving travellers a reason and a way to see other parts of the community beyond Gateway Village.

I like the idea of walking trails that pass through the town and loop back to the Gateway Village area, especially if they have interpretative signs along the way and lead to places like the Stonehenge-like fabrication yard, the Marine Rail Park and the opportunity to touch the foundation of the Confederation Bridge.

They also point out some “eye sores,” such as the chain-link fence that is visible to motorists as they exit the bridge and the go-cart track.

Economic development is also on the wish list. MacDougall Steel Erectors is expanding and adding jobs, so additional housing will likely be in demand. Another thing that is needed is a quality, year-round pub and restaurant. P.E.I. is, after all, Canadas Food Island. Why not build on that with a place for tourists and locals to come together, have a pint and a meal, and listen to Maritime music?

I’ll add another suggestion: better signage pointing to town hall. During my visit, I drove in circles trying to find town hall. If not for a friendly RCMP officer (laughing the whole time) who led me to the building, and then to the clerk’s counter, I might still be looking for it.

Regardless, I’m impressed with the passion and town pride from Martin, Wood and Sexton. They want to see change for the better. They want to spend their remaining days in the town and have others enjoy what it has to offer.

I suspect I’m like many when I travel to the Island. Get on the bridge. Drive off the bridge. Stop in Borden-Carleton for gas or a coffee. And then continue to Charlottetown or another destination.

Getting out, walking around and sight seeing in Borden-Carleton? It’s never really been on my radar. But who knows?

Even though I’m not big on selfies, I might make an exception for one while touching the foundation of the Confederation Bridge.

terrence.mceachern@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/terry_mcn    

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