A group of young people are upset over city council’s decision to shoot down a permanent rainbow crosswalk as they say they were never given any explanation as to why.
“The idea of getting involved this year with getting the rainbow crosswalk was that it was a big hit last year at Campbell River Pride,” said Laura McLaren, LGBT2Q+ youth group facilitator. “The youth wanted to see it happen again this year for Pride and, since (last year) it was painted on a Thursday (Pride was on a Saturday) and it was removed two days later…youth wanted it to remain and wanted a permanent one. There are many other places where rainbow crosswalks are permanent, so why not Campbell River?”The LGBT2Q+ group (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two spirit, queer, plus – which refers to other identities along the spectrum) Peer Youth Group, which is made up of Campbell Riverites aged 15-24, was disappointed earlier this week, though, when city council, at its Monday meeting, turned down their request on the advice of city staff. Lynn Wark, the city’s recreation and culture manager, wrote in a report to council that a permanently painted crosswalk did not jive with the city’s new development document that is aimed at promoting downtown as a place to live and work.
“A permanent rainbow crosswalk does not align with the Refresh Downtown concepts so it has been determined that the best solution would be to approve a temporary rainbow crosswalk in support of the North Island Pride Festival which is being held on June (24) in Spirit Square,” Wark wrote.
McLaren said that’s disappointing.
“The main reason is to have the city take a stand for diversity and show support and acceptance, even celebration of the LGBT2Q+ community,” McLaren said. “Rainbows are colourful and fun. It could inspire conversations among families about the rainbow and about the LGBT2Q+ community. It’s also just appealing, it’s colouful, creative, fun, would add a splash of colour to the downtown core.”
On Monday, council did give the go-ahead to a temporary rainbow crosswalk at Shoppers Row and 10th Avenue but nixed the idea of a permanent one.
McLaren said the fact council approved a temporary crosswalk is “a great thing” but there are some mixed feelings about the city not wanting to approve a permanent fixture.
“The crosswalk should be permanent,” said Teresa Galati, a member of the LGBT2Q+ peer group. “I don’t feel that it’s right that city council didn’t give us a proper explanation as to why the crosswalk can’t fit with the city’s Refresh Downtown project.”
“It’s one thing if the city gave this or another reason as an explanation but again the fact that the youth remain guessing as to why it ‘doesn’t fit’ remains unfortunate,” McLaren said.
Marianne Wade, the city’s acting manager of community planning and development services, told the Mirror the issue with the LGBT2Q group’s request is that the location targeted for the crosswalk is part of what’s considered lower Shoppers Row and which has been designated as the cultural district. That lower Shoppers Row area is in the midst of a major upgrade and improvement plans, which could include public art – such as non-standard painted crosswalks – need to be part of a broader consultation process. Putting in a permanent rainbow crosswalk now would negate that process, Wade said.
“There is a stakeholder involvement process and we would reach out as to what street elements should look like,” Wade said. “We’re in the midst of that process. To do something permanent, the timing is not there because we’re evolving that design concept.”
Wade did say that the LGBT2Q+ group would be considered one of those stakeholders that the city would consult but she added that when it comes to public art and other design elements, there needs to be agreement from more than one party.
“How do we adapt the space for flexibility, for everyone to use,” Wade said.
Alex Alfred, another member of the LGBT2Q+ group, was understanding.
“I can see where the city may be coming from for having a temporary crosswalk (but) it is important to have diversity.”
LGBT2Q+ member Ashley Riley said a rainbow crosswalk would be a positive step for Campbell River.
“People come here for the mountains and the ocean, beautiful things that you never get sick of,” Riley said. “It’s the same as the rainbow crosswalk. I would never get sick of it. Who doesn’t like rainbows?”
Despite the minor setback, McLaren said she’s proud the youth’s hard work in making presentations to city committees and collecting 568 signatures in support of a permanent rainbow crosswalk paid off.
“The bottom line is: there will be a crosswalk,” she said. “And the fact that there has been so much support for a permanent crosswalk, both within the city and the comunity, is fantastic. It’s definitely progress, definitely a step forward.”
In the meantime, the city will be looking to develop a policy for non-standard crosswalks as this is not the first time council has been approached with a request for a uniquely painted crosswalk. Pride organizers also asked last year for a rainbow crosswalk which was ultimately granted for the Pride Festival for the crosswalk at Shoppers Row and 11th Avenue. That crosswalk has since been painted in a sea life theme – a concept that was also requested of council last year.
Wade said a policy for such crosswalks is necessary.
“What we have to consider are transportation safety issues in regards to ICBC, when we’re doing these non-standard crosswalks,” Wade said.
About the LGBT2Q+ Group
The group celebrates and creates art and creativity, self expression, community, PRIDE, social and peer support. The group hosts discussions, takes part in outings, movie nights, game nights, and community projects like the rainbow crosswalk. It is supported by the John Howard Society/Foundry.