This year wasn’t easy for many groups in the community – budgets were cut and changing demographics created struggles – but looking back at The Review’s news coverage over the past year, it is clear people in the area are willing to work to improve and preserve what is important in the community.

One of our first issues of 2016 featured a story about the Vankleek Hill Business and Merchant Association. The outgoing president was concerned no one would step into the role, and was concerned the BMA would be dormant for a period. But in the end, a new executive was elected, and as we have covered in the paper, it is working on new projects.

A group of residents of Alfred-Plantagenet filed appeals of an aspect of the counties’ official plan, concerned about the possibility of an asphalt plant or other damaging development in a fragile area. It is a shame Alfred-Plantagenet itself, which intended to file an appeal, missed the deadline, but it is encouraging to see people dedicated to a cause, especially after years of fighting the same battle.

There were some devastating fires in 2016 – one of the worst was perhaps in St-Isidore, where a church and landmark was destroyed. That community hopes to rebuild, and meanwhile, members of the Catholic and wider Christian community in the area are looking hard at how to improve attendance at some churches. At Vankleek Hill’s consultation about attendance at local Catholic churches, people spoke about the importance of the church and also expressed a desire to share it with another generation.

Last winter was the season of Vankleek Hill’s lone protestor, Andy Perreault, who was joined in the end by a lot of like-minded people. The complex issue he hopes to see addressed is not yet resolved, but Perreault kept it in the public eye for months.

In L’Orignal, Colacem Canada’s renewed desire to build a cement plant on Highway 17 created a community movement against the idea. The debate has been strained at points, but whatever your opinion of the proposed project, it’s clear many members of the community care deeply about what the future looks like in L’Orignal.

Most recently, a report from the Upper Canada District School Board announced a series of potential school closures – closest to home, in Alexandria and Maxville. That news spurred parents and non-parents alike to fight back and describe why it’s so important to have a school in the community. The potential school closures are bad news, but if there is a silver lining, it’s hearing how many parents consciously chose to move to our communities.

This week, Vankleek Hill says goodbye to a very dedicated citizen. While he’s irreplaceable as an individual, plans exist to continue his legacy and projects.

This past year the area saw its share of bad – we also saw violence, budget cuts, and mess-ups – but it was also clear that many people who live here are serious about civic responsibility. Whichever side of the various issues we find ourselves on, it’s good to know community members are paying attention. Santa should be busy in this neck of the woods on Christmas Eve.