A little flair for Castlegar

During the recent municipal election, there was some criticism of the city’s use of funds to add a few extras to the look of the city


Spots in Time – Gord Turner


During the recent municipal election, there was some criticism of the city’s use of funds to add a few extras to the look of the city.  Expressions such as “unnecessary waste” and “unneeded addition” were bandied about. The lights on the Columbia Avenue overpass and the rainbow walkway downtown were two of the items mentioned.

I thought about these comments for a day or two, and then shrugged my shoulders. I sensed these people were missing the big picture.  In a budget of some $20 million, a few dollars spent to brighten up the city or to make a statement is no big deal. It’s a matter of balance because all of the big things in infrastructure and water-sewer-roads were still being completed.

I wondered why there was no criticism of the street banners and Christmas lighting the city puts up each year.  These are decorative and advertize features of our city, but clearly they could be done away with.  We could have a drab city and spend money only on water-sewer-roads. How dull that would be!

I asked myself why there was no quarrel with the huge flower pots and the thousands of flowers planted by Communities in Bloom and others.

After all, if we don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars on unnecessary items, then ceramic pots and colourful flowers surely would have to go.  They’re probably not necessary to people’s ability to drive the streets, drink the water, and flush the toilets. The city could save this $30,000 outlay for beautification.

If the tax dollar-complainers had their way and council never spent money beyond the basics, Castlegar certainly would be a less attractive place in which to live and work.

Indeed, according to these negative pundits, the city should probably not have supported and partly funded Sculpturewalk. Who needs a stretch of our town cluttered up with artists’ renderings of animals and creatures and scenes? These are extras that go way beyond necessity.

However, these “extras” have brought a lot of tourists and travelers into our city. Beyond that, they have put Castlegar on world-wide maps by winning an International Communities in Bloom award and becoming a destination city for outdoor art. If council had not accepted the ideas put forward by some very imaginative community groups, then we’d still be stuck with voting only on which streets to pave. The add-on initiatives have brightened up Castlegar and moved it beyond being just a mill town and hockey town.

When my wife and I have travelled elsewhere in this world of ours, we note that most cities don’t stick to the basics.  When we come across a city that has no fountains, no statues, and no flower gardens, we keep on driving. We’re attracted to cities where the forefathers have thought about what their city will look like in the future.

Vancouver could have left Gastown as just a dingy collection of rundown warehouses, but they worked at improving the area.  And today, Gastown is a neat area of Vancouver and worthy of visiting.

It’s a given in terms of human psychology that few of us can live by bread alone. We need some garnish to our food and some colour on our walls. We need to add rainbows of hope to our city and include things that stretch us as human beings.

In Paris, we admired lights on the bridges, so why not in Castlegar? Why should we accept the ordinary and the utilitarian when just a little flair can make our city a better place.