Shelley Shenton, president of the Alberni Valley Pride Society, stands outside of City Hall, near Fourth Avenue, where she would like to see the city’s permanent rainbow crosswalk. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Port Alberni city council gives rainbow crosswalk green light

Alberni Pride Society hopes crosswalk will be installed by Pride weekend July 22

Port Alberni city council gave the city’s first permanent rainbow crosswalk unanimous approval during Monday’s council meeting.

The vote followed a successful GoFundMe campaign started by city councillors Chris Alemany and Sharie Minions, after a group of residents painted a temporary chalk rainbow crosswalk beside city hall earlier this month.

“The fundraising effort was amazing in its success,” Alemany said. The GoFundMe account raised $2,605 in 13 days. After GoFundMe took its cut of the donations raised, Alemany was left with a cheque for $2,378.96.

“That was a really wonderful indication from the community of the support for a rainbow crosswalk to be done permanently,” he said.

Both Alemany and Minions said estimates on the paint and labour costs required for installing a rainbow crosswalk were less than they had initially proposed, so there will be money left over from the funds raised to help with maintenance.

Shelley Shenton, president of the Alberni Valley Pride Society, said she was amazed by the outpouring of support from the community, and confessed on Monday, “I think Port Alberni is ready.

“I hadn’t intended on that even happening this year,” she said. “But something very organic happened.”

The society wrote a letter to council requesting that the crosswalk be painted on Fourth Avenue, in the same place that the temporary chalk crosswalk was painted on June 11. The society also requested that the crosswalk be painted on or before the weekend of July 22, as there are Pride events planned for that weekend.

“It would be really nice to have it leading to those events, or even on the family day event,” said Shenton.

Councillor Ron Paulson was the only one who brought forward any doubts. “I don’t feel that there’s a great amount of benefit from this kind of symbolism,” he admitted. “I’m wondering if your funds would be better off educating the public and channelled in a different direction.”

Shenton disagreed. “When there’s something that’s visible, it’s saying that you are welcoming of that community, that you recognize that community,” she said.

“It says that to the people who live here who are LGBTQ, it says that to people who have moved away because they haven’t felt accepted here. It says things to people who are visiting who might want to be moving here.”

Minions also pointed out, “The Pride Society didn’t raise the funds, the community raised the funds. And the community raised the funds because they want to show support visibly. This is a statement that the community wants to make.”

Mayor Mike Ruttan finished by saying, “We’re elected to lead and show leadership in the community, and I think this is exactly the kind of thing that is appropriate for us to do as a council.”

The rainbow crosswalk was approved unanimously by city council.

Councillor Denis Sauvé made a motion to fly the Pride flag at city hall on July 23 in support of Pride Day, and this was approved, as well.

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