Some 1,300 locals know Julia Buxton Cox as the moderator of the members-only (i.e. Niagara-on-the-Lake residents only) Facebook group NOTL Today.
“It purely came about because of all the goodness we’ve seen in this town,” says the 48-year-old transplant from Oakville. She sees this as a volunteer role, a way for her to give back to the town she has grown to love deeply.
“The Facebook page represents my passion for this town, for connecting residents and providing a platform for them to speak to each other,“ she says. The page is something of a version of people opening up their windows and yelling out a question to their neighbours, or hanging out at the local coffee shop or pub. “I see it like the old fashioned party phone lines,” says Buxton Cox — which allowed several people to
speak at once — “or like like having coffee with your neighbours, but you can do it in your PJs.”
Before choosing to move to Niagara-on-theLake, Buxton Cox was the owner/operator of a travel agency in Oakville. With her warmly gregarious nature, it’s no surprise
she found herself in that industry.
She fell into it unexpectedly. “We were preparing to attend a destination wedding in Punta Cana, and I got to talking with the travel agent who was organizing it,” she says. “I was in kitchen sales and design at the time, and didn’t like the hours — evenings and
weekends. The travel agent suggested I try her line of work, even part time.”
“So I tried it,” says the spirited Buxton Cox. “And I loved it.”
After nine years in the industry, the London Ontario-born Buxton Cox decided it was time to move on. The industry was changing, and so was her lifestyle: She and her husband David were planning a move to their cherished NOTL.
“We were married here in 1997,” the statuesque redhead recalls. “In Grace United Church. We had the town crier there, and rode in a Sentineal carriage; had the reception at Queen’s Landing. So to be back here 20 years later — this sounds so corny — is a dream come true.”
Until she met David Cox, Buxton Cox had no awareness of NOTL. But he was born and raised in Niagara Falls, and had very fond ideas about this town. “David would talk about it, so we started coming here from Oakville for getaways,” she says. As Cox’s
retirement time came nearer, the couple decided to buy a house in what they had begun to refer to as “Magicville” and “Pleasantville.”
“We bought our house through Kevan O’Connor, ‘Mr. NOTL.’ He and his wife dressed up for every event in town,” Buxton Cox remembers. “I asked Kevan if he ever got tired of tourists. He said, ‘Niagara-on-the-Lake will never lose its magic.’” She couldn’t agree more.
They bought a bungalow on the edge of Chautauqua in 2015, and built a new house on the property in 2016. “I told (builder) Kekoo Gatta I wanted lots of light,” she says, standing in the open-concept kitchen-living-room-dining-room which is streaming with
sunbeams. The many windows and glass doors look out on a well-loved yard.
As a travel agent, the aficionado of the Spanish language found a niche for herself as an expert on Costa Rica. “It was so inspiring — how close to nature people can live,” she says. “Pura vida.” Buxton Cox seems to have found her own version of “pure life” in her house surrounded by mature trees, the grounds dotted with bird feeders attracting all kinds of fauna.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t feel blessed to live here,” she says.
That statement is not often heard coming from dedicated followers of politics — a tribe which Buxton Cox was surprised to find herself joining when she moved to town. “I started following council because we are a small town and it was just an interest,” she
says. “I started going to meetings, and now we’re live streaming the meetings at home, cooking dinner and enjoying a glass of wine while watching them. It gives you a really good sense of what’s going on, who councillors are, how they vote.”
However, politicking is not allowed on NOTL Today. The page’s description is very specific about rules and protocol. “This is a forum for residents of NOTL to come together to promote events, share photos, look for recommendations and discuss issues facing our town. We welcome lively debate but it must be in a mature and respectful manner. We will not tolerate any form of bullying or vulgar comments,” states
the mandate, written by Buxton Cox.
“People are seeking connection and not everyone is seeking it face-toface,” says the extroverted recent local, who has met “hundreds of people” as a result of the forum.
She spends about seven to 10 hours a week moderating NOTL Today, and says, “Overall it has been a great experience. I really do have a passion for the town. As a travel agent I know what we have here. I just want the goodness of the town to come through on the page.”
Posts on NOTL Today include shots of local beauty; questions about power outages; requests for recommendations for dentists, driveway pavers and restaurants; and lost and/or found dogs. The page bypassed a call to Ken Reid, the local “dogcatcher,” when a message of a found dog was posted and the owner was found and picked up his pooch within less than an hour.
“I’m always looking for good content to share,” says Buxton Cox. “We’re open to suggestions on how we can improve. I just want to see people happy.” Recently she decided to ask residents for photographs or artwork to use as the page’s profile image, rotating seasonally. The current “winter” image is a moody shot of bare trees on the Commons by local photographer David Gilchrist. Gilchrist also often posts striking nature shots, most recently of a “coywolf ” spotted by Butler’s Burial Grounds.
Other familiar posts on the page include links to stories Buxton Cox shares from various local media sources, as well as member posts about everything from ice wine
grape picking to the sad announcement of the passing of Thomas the cat at Pet
NOTL Today, as curated by Buxton Cox, is a real snapshot of our diverse and yet connected community.