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Adventures in Trenton, Ontario

Adventures in Trenton, Ontario

I spent Easter weekend, as I’ve spent every major holiday in my entire life, in Trenton, Ontario. The farther I get removed from the town, the more it amazes me. What sets Trenton apart is its stark contrast to neighbouring communities. I know the slew of mid-size towns between Toronto and Montreal along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river all very well. Once the suburbs of the bookending cities end, most of the places in between are picturesque, lake or riverfront towns that have benefited from retiring boomers, gaining both population and culture (see Cobourg, Port Hope, Picton, Napanee, and small city Kingston). Trenton, however, has gained neither. One reasoning behind this that I’ve heard from my grandmother was that during the 1970s, the government offered these communities money to up their waterfront properties. Trenton – whose downtown is basically owned by two families – worried the government’s involvement would reduce this monopoly, and refused.

Stagnating around 15-20,000 people since the 1970s, Trenton has very little going for it beyond the giant airforce base located in its east end. The downtown has crumbled into an ugly, mostly out of business stretch, and most factories continue to close. Crime has been on the rise, with the town seeming to have a murder every summer, usually a teenage or twentysomething girl (when I was in high school, an acquaintance was found raped and murdered in the river, while last summer someone I went to high school with was found brutally strangled in a city park). A friend of mine works at the main pharmacy downtown, and says when corporate staff come in from Toronto they are amazed at the amount of narcotics being prescribed (the highest amount in any Shoppers Drug Mart – Canadas biggest pharmacy – in all of Ontario). Clean needles are given out on a regular basis.

All of this might seem pretty typical, and similar falls of communities have been documented time and time again. But growing up, I never really noticed. But now, its everywhere I look. A trip to a local bar brings fear I’ve never experienced in even the roughest parts of Montreal or Toronto, while a trip to Wal-Mart brings similar amounts of depression. Mind you, I still mostly enjoy coming here. It will always be home, as much as it continues to crumble. And when you spend 17 years of your life somewhere, its so embedded in you its hard not to root for it to turn itself around.. Though I do find I rarely leave my mother’s house anymore when I am here…

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