Rainbow crosswalk, community challenge aiming to increase awareness in Trail

Pride Walk and Pride Flag celebration on Aug. 31

Awareness, breaking down stigma and creating more inclusiveness.

Those are lofty goals in today’s world but in small increments around the country, attitudes are changing.

And in a small community like Trail, it began small and continues to build.

Such is the case for Trail’s annual Pride Flag raising and celebration.

Although the event will be celebrated for its third year, this year’s event is taken the goals one step further.

On Aug. 31, the day will not only include the flag raising but also a walk, a celebration and fundraising for a Rainbow Crosswalk in downtown Trail.

Addison Oberg is the momentum behind the crosswalk idea. Born and raised in Trail, Oberg returned to her hometown after four years at university when a friend pointed out that Trail doesn’t have a Rainbow Crosswalk.

Oberg saw it as an opportunity.

“When I came back from university this was something I wanted to see in my community. We have a good community here and I think there would be a lot of people excited about it.”

She went through all the steps, got pricing, approached council and was given the go-ahead to fundraise for the crosswalk, which will be located on the Esplanade near the Trail Riverfront Centre.

A GoFundMe page has been created, and raised over $600 so far. People can learn more about the plan at the Pride Trail BC Facebook page.

“I phoned around for pricing for the crosswalk and it was surprisingly expensive – the paint is a very specialized paint. When I got approval for the crosswalk I also got approval for a fundraiser.

A ballpark price for the crosswalk is around $7,000 but the city has said it would support half the cost, leaving Oberg to fundraise for the rest.

“Which is really phenomenal and I’m really grateful. So far I have had great responses. I haven’t had any negative feedback.”

She’s hoping the crosswalk will be done by Spring 2019.

The creation of a Rainbow Crosswalk gained prominence in Sydney, Australia in 2013.

“It’s a symbol of inclusivity, not just for the LBGTQ+ community, it’s a symbol of acceptance for a lot of the marginalized people,” explained Oberg.

The eight colours each have a meaning. Pink is for sexuality, red is for life, orange is for healing, yellow represents sunlight, green is for nature, light blue is for harmony, dark blue is for serenity and violet is for spirit.

There are over 40 rainbow crosswalks in communities across B.C. including Rossland, Nelson and Castlegar.

So Trail should be added to that list, said Oberg.

“We’re doing so much now, all of our renovations, the beautiful new Riverfront Centre, new infrastructure and more young families are moving into the area. And especially for young people, this is something that they would love to see.”

And supporting the community’s young people is also a big reason Freedom Quest Youth Services Society is lending a helping hand.

Pride Trail BC and Freedom Quest, with the support of the Trail United Way, are collaborating for a day of events on Aug. 31 and beyond.

“We support youth in a variety of ways and programming and one of those is supporting LBGTQ+ youth,” explained Meagan Zunti, the Trail and Salmo Substance Use Outreach counsellor for Freedom Quest.

“With this event, Freedom Quest involved youth more in the planning and vision. So what they would like, at the high school and in the community, is just more ways they can be more visible. How can we break down the stigma?

“They have a very deep understanding of their experience in the community. I trust them to know when we’re ready.”

With that, Zunti introduced the Community Challenge involving local businesses.

“We wanted to use this event to get more conversations going. It’s a way to get more inclusive spaces in Trail just by businesses identifying themselves. And there’s a number of ways they can do that.”

Businesses can sign up for the challenge which has three different options.

• They can sign up to display the Pride Flag at their business for one month so the flag can move throughout the community until next year’s event.

• Another is to display the Pride sticker promoting their business as a LBGTQ+ friendly place.

• A third option businesses can do is to see how they can make their bathrooms more accessible. Even if it’s not a public bathroom, just putting up the sign is a conversation starter.

On Aug. 31 at city hall there will be a registration table where businesses can sign up for the challenge and people can also make a donation to the crosswalk fund.

Oberg is hoping people come out and show their support.

“I’m planning to have some music, a bunch of Pride stickers, we’ll go on a Pride walk along the Esplanade and across the Victoria St. Bridge and down Columbia Ave., and back over the Skywalk.”

While Freedom Quest is putting its efforts behind promoting inclusiveness in the community through its challenge, Zunti said the crosswalk push has been mainly Oberg’s efforts.

Of course, the sight of a rainbow crosswalk has also brought out its share of detractors in communities and some crosswalks have been defaced. However, that hasn’t deterred the local push.

“I think that if there’s anything that’s going to be a little controversial in a town that there is the fear that it could be vandalized,” said Oberg. “That’s one of the reasons why we chose this location, because of the security cameras around.”

The location is also becoming a cultural hub with the opening of the Riverfront Centre this year, the beautiful Jubilee Park as well as the nearby theatres and VISAC Gallery. Safety-wise the speed limit is low in that area.

Zunti mentioned a recent incident in Salmon Arm where the crosswalk was vandalized shortly after it was painted.

“The community support after that was amazing. There’s a fear that there is going to be vandalism or there’s going to be people that don’t understand what this is about, and maybe there’s some learning to do,” she added.

“I think Trail is in a very good place to have something like this, especially with all the young people moving into our community,” said Oberg.

The Aug. 31 event will begin at 11 a.m. at Jubilee Park and continue with its Pride Walk across the bridges to city hall for the Pride Flag celebration.

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