A highlight of Keith Smyth’s day used to be the parade of lunchtime walkers passing his home with either a quick wave or brief stop for friendly banter before continuing their loop around town.
The former principal was building his East Trail home as a retirement project in 2007, when he’d put his hammer down around noon to visit with passersby as they’d walk the Trail bridges during a midday break from their desk jobs.
Those noon hour visits stopped when the Old Trail Bridge closed four years ago.
The cultural value of walking the bridges and the city’s social value that comes with that exercise is something Smyth misses and believes is integral to the citizens of Trail.
He and long time friends John D’Arcangelo and Scottie McKinnon regularly meet for a cup of java and a chat session when most recently, the heart of the conversation turned to the pedestrian walkway debate.
On the heels of the petition that halted the city’s pedestrian/pipe bridge project in May, the trio’s discussion turned to that topic and their concerns that little information and confusion overshadowed the issue.
“That’s when we got involved,” said Smyth. “The petition was trying to save the old bridge, which is something that couldn’t be saved and we could see the confusion.”
Over three weeks of gaining insight that included visits to city hall, conversations with merchants, citizens and community leaders, momentum grew and others joined the informal group of “Citizens in support of a pedestrian walkway.”
So far, about 200 people have gathered in support of voting ‘Yes” for the pedestrian walkway bridge on Aug. 23 or during advanced polling opportunities on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20.
There’s no door-to-door campaigning or phone calls, but the group has printed a flyer they’ll be distributing throughout town this week with the message, ‘Be informed’ and ‘Help Shape Trail’s Future!’
“We thought if we talked to people who are undecided and needed more information that we will hand them this sheet,” said D’Arcangelo.
Both men said they’ve had a few back-and-forths with people who were undecided or against the river crossing.
But, for the most part, people are on board with the group’s push for affirmative votes in a project that comes without a raise in Trail taxes.
“With this certainty, it was game on,” said Smyth on behalf of the citizens’ group. “On a zero budget supporters have built an exponential list of like-minded ‘Yes’ enthusiasts and developed a succinct one page informal flyer in tandem with a simple promotional message.”
Smyth and D’Arcangelo fondly recall walking students over the old bridge to take in a show at the Charles Bailey Theatre back when they were both teaching at Laura J. Morrish School (now the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre) in East Trail.
“The river is our greatest asset to this town as far as I am concerned,” said D’Arcangelo. “The walkway will enhance the river rather than an ugly old pipe that will take away its beauty.”
Smyth agrees with his friend’s view, and added that it would be awful to only have a pipe crossing the river, saying, ‘just think about it, we’ll have a poop pipeline across the middle of our town.’
Both men agree that the city has stepped up its game in promoting the pedestrian bridge initiative, and they are simply bringing more awareness to the matter.
“We get more passionate as the days go by,” said Smyth. “The way this town will unite is if we get overwhelming support. That’s the motivation – for this town to see a project that we are all in together.”