Saugeen District Senior School students will be able to walk over a rainbow on their way to classes in September.
Saugeen Shores announced Thursday that its Rainbow Crosswalk – a project in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community – has been painted across Gustavus Street in Port Elgin, outside of the Grade 7 to 12 school.
Deputy-mayor Don Matheson, a teacher at the Bluewater District School Board senior school who initiated and championed the project, said the crosswalk is a symbol of the community’s commitment to inclusivity and identifies the school as a safe, welcoming place for all, including LGBT students.
“It’s bright, it’s bold and as school starts in two weeks – and this school year nobody really knows what’s going to happen with it and kids have no idea what’s going to happen and they’re worried and nervous – crossing the rainbow and going to school is a sign of calmness and not having to worry. You come into a safe place and this is all going to be good. Everything is always better over the rainbow,” he said in an interview.
A crew from Miller Maintenance spent Wednesday painting the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple stripes for the crosswalk.
Matheson said a special paint that boosts traction was used. He expects it will last three to four years before a refresh will be needed.
Matheson posted his idea for the crosswalk on social media last year and discussed it with students at Saugeen District before presenting the proposal to council during its 2020 budget deliberations late last year.
The initial cost estimate for the project was $10,000.
Council supported the idea by including $5,000 in the town’s capital budget, with a plan to raise the rest through sponsorships and donations.
The town had planned to unveil the Rainbow Crosswalk during Pride month in June, but the project was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So the next logical step was to have it ready for the beginning of school,” Matheson said. “And, luckily, the way things have opened up, our director of infrastructure Amanda Froese was able to get this taken care of and Miller came in and did it yesterday.”
Council voted in June to contract Miller Maintenance to do the work after the company submitted the lowest of two bids received at $5,650. Bruce Power donated $1,000 to the project.
Matheson said he believes the Rainbow Crosswalk idea will continue to spread.
“I think it will become more common in more and more towns across southwestern Ontario,” he said.
Saugeen Shores officials, in a news release issued Thursday, said they would like to thank everyone who championed the crosswalk project throughout its planning and execution.
“Diversity makes us stronger and the Rainbow Crosswalk is a symbol of our community’s commitment to inclusivity,” said Mayor Luke Charbonneau.
Rainbow crosswalks have been popping up in communities around the world since about 2008.
In Ontario, the brightly coloured crossings have been painted in cities like Barrie, Niagara Falls, Burlington, Oshawa, Aurora, Sarnia and Thunder Bay.