Top stories 2014: A change in Maple Ridge

‘Community pride’ is high at the moment.

Maple Ridge had its Christmas parade on the weekend.

Maple Ridge had its Christmas parade on the weekend.

It may just be a small thing, being called a city, living in a city – instead of the municipal District of Maple Ridge.

But when you saw tears in the eyes of spectators last Sept. 12 as Maple Ridge moved to city from district, you realized it was about more than that.

“It was really exciting to see the people who have literally spent their entire lives here  in tears … at this next step, of becoming a city,” said city communications manager Fred Armstrong.

One of those Armstrong noticed getting emotional about the big day was former Maple Ridge mayor and councillor Al Hogarth, who was among those who pushed for the change to city status.

Maple Ridge received that status in a proclamation from Premier Christy Clark at the same time it celebrated its 140th birthday in Memorial Peace Park.

“That was the official day we became a city,” says Armstrong. “The proclamation the premier made officially came into effect.”

The event held in Memorial Peace Park featured speeches from Emerald Pig Theatrical Society actors using the words of politicians from long ago.

Those two events, becoming a city and celebrating 140 years were followed by a municipal election in November that saw four new people get elected to council and a mayor with no elected experience, chosen to run the group.

Voter turnout also jumped by five per cent as more people wanted to have a say in how they’re governed.

That fall was a turning point, a change in consciousness for Maple Ridge residents who are developing more of an identity and satisfaction in where they live, says Armstrong.

“If you look at the election … the downtown [Christmas] decorations … there is a lot of community pride right now.”

The newly elected council is tapping into that as well, Armstrong added.

With a population of 80,000, he pointed out that Maple Ridge is larger than any city in New Brunswick.

Armstrong said the city’s efforts on social media are drawing positive feedback. The video posted of the city’s downtown Christmas lights has been seen 4,000 times.

“It’s wonderful for the community.”

The city’s video of the Santa parade has drawn 20,000 views.

While the changeover from district to city is a gradual process that doesn’t seem to have much impact on a case-by-case basis, over the long term, the term city will more accurately depict a municipality with urban and rural qualities.

Similarly, the physical transformation to a city will be a gradual process. Paperwork and stationery that the name from district to city will be done as supplies run out, minimizing costs.

Fortunately, the signs that welcome people to Maple Ridge don’t mention the word city or district.

So far there are no plans to change the metal lettering on the municipal building to show the words City of Maple Ridge.