Two rainbows crossed the road to connect a community and make it more beautiful last week.
A heartwarming public event splashed loving colours across Ucluelet’s Peninsula Road on Aug. 17 as locals and visitors gathered to create two rainbow crosswalks in front of Ucluelet Secondary School that show united support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans or Questioning (LGBTQ) community.
Rainbow crosswalks have been spreading across the country since the first permanent one was installed in Vancouver in 2013.
Ukee local Courtney Johnson first pitched the idea of painting one of Ucluelet’s crosswalks rainbow colours to Ucluelet’s municipal council during a June 28 meeting and she was thrilled to see council not just support her idea, but double down on it and paint two.
Painting both crosswalks cost the district roughly $500, according to Ucluelet’s Chief Financial Officer Jeannette O’Connor.
Johnson told the Westerly News she’s wanted Ucluelet to have a rainbow crosswalk for some time and was delighted to see her council and community rally support around her idea.
“It’s something that’s very personal to me and very personal to the people I love,” she said. “It matters and it turned out, when I started talking about it, I wasn’t the only person it mattered to.”
She said the crosswalks’ message of acceptance fits well with Ucluelet’s community vibe.
“As we know, Ucluelet means safe harbour and that means Ucluelet is safe for everybody. Everybody should feel safe here,” she said.
“Ucluelet is a wonderful and diverse community and everyone in it deserves to have their unique colours shine as brightly as possible; just like a rainbow. That is why it was important to do this.”
She added the colourful crosswalks would boost both safety and beauty.
“It’s adding a sense of security and safety to a group of humanity that deserves to be included just as much as everybody else,” she said.
“It is something that matters and, when I say it’s safe for everyone, I mean everyone; the person that identifies as LGBTQ and the person who doesn’t…If you identify with the social representation of the rainbow, great. If you don’t, it’s something that’s lovely.”
Both crosswalks are within Ucluelet’s 30 km/h community zone and Johnson suggested their increased visibility could help slow traffic.
“People will be encouraged to slow down even more,” she said.
She added it was important to her that the community be invited to participate in the crosswalks’ creation and she was excited to see so many volunteers show up to help paint them on Aug. 18.
“I want to make sure I give a shout-out to the community and everyone who came to help. It was so much fun. I absolutely love this town and the people in it,” she said. “This community is so full of love…It was really really nice to see the community want to make this happen. For whatever reason they had to be supportive, if it was a social reason or they just liked the idea of pretty colours, they were and that’s really important.”
She said Ucluelet’s Windsor Plywood was instrumental in getting the proper paint and materials.
“They were so helpful, they brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “They have a phenomenal staff there.”
She also expressed thanks to Ucluelet’s council and Parks and Recreation Director Abby Fortune.
Fortune told the Westerly News Ucluelet’s council was happy to oblige Johnson’s rainbow request and that she was thrilled to be a part of the project.
“We identified the two crosswalks in front of the high school as a front and centre location for them and there’s an obvious tie in there,” she said adding the district aimed to make the project youth and community driven.
“The success is obvious with the number of people who came out to participate and help and the feedback the district has received has been excellent.”
She assured the new crosswalks fully conform with regulations as certified crosswalk paint was used as well as a non-slip compound and reflective glass beads so they can be seen at night.
“They’re safe, reflective and non slippery,” she said.
She commended Johnson for not just presenting the idea to the district, but spearheading the work.
“Council was very, very, happy to support this project and our community and the youth in the community and good on Courtney for bringing this forward and very much helping to organize and make this happen,” Fortune said.
“Communities are what you put into them and, I think, it’s wonderful that someone is willing to recognize a need, recognize a gap, and that council is there to support, where appropriate, and then work with the various departments to make a project come to reality; in relatively quick time too.”