Generation after generation struggles with making the place they call home as friendly, safe and meaningful as it can be.

In rural areas of Ontario, small communities used to leave their future to their local government, assuming that municipal leaders would anticipate community needs and look out for them.

That strategy does not always work.

In the 1960s as new ideas about how to develop and revitalize a community sprung up the idea seemed to be about having a top down process.

Local government would come up with an idea, more often than not without community input, and then implement it. Your average villager went along with it and small neighbourhoods grew, often in a random way according to whatever a particular developer and town council thought was best.

When the 1970s arrived much changed.

Community participation in how neighbourhoods were set up was becoming more commonplace and politicians and municipal staff were listening.

Local council meetings routinely listened to delegations from the community or individuals who had a plan for their neighbourhood. The message to government at every level was that people wanted to build their community and neighbourhood from the ground up, not from the top down.

These days the energy and determination of local community groups has become commonplace, and as a result communities and small villages stand a better chance of achieving their goals than ever before.

The Greely Loop is a great example.

The Greely Community Association has always been able to nudge the elbow of their local government whether it was the former Township of Osgoode or the current Ottawa ship of state.

Every Osgoode politician from Doug Thompson to George Darouze has consistently championed the idea of community engagement, and the completion of the Greely Loop is an example of how that can work.

That little voice, a community assumes it has is, when it becomes a chorus, is very loud.

Greely as a community never quite fit the description of a typical rural village. Parkway Road was intended to be a major artery running through the community, but over time became a liability dangerous to children on bicycles and people just wanting to go for a walk.

Members of the Greely Community Association realized several years ago that while Greely did not have a community focal point, it was possible to have a path running around it connecting all of the different, but isolated neighbourhoods.

That was the plan brought to the attention of the city and thanks to volunteers, determined association members and a willing political participation the path construction took place.

Residents had a vision for their community that was imagined and implemented from the ground up.

Ottawa did help out with dollars here and there, but for the most part the community led the way.

Just like all heroes do not wear capes, leaders do not always arrive in a shiny car.

In the case of Greely, as in many other small communities across Ontario, the real leaders, the people that truly make a difference, are the ones across the street from you cutting their grass on a Saturday afternoon.

As a result of the existence of the Greely Loop children can traverse their neighbourhood without having to take on a speeding car along Parkway Road and walk or bike their way to their own community centre and library.

It goes to show what people are able to do when they decided to do something.

It is one thing to describe Greely as a vibrant community in a brochure, and another to actually go ahead and make it so.

– J.M.