City needs to step up sales pitch for new bridge

"...the way to make anyone feel important is to talk to them, listen to them and answer their questions."

The City of Trail has its fingers crossed that citizens will see the value of a new river crossing and vote in favour of borrowing the money needed to complete the project.

But having your fingers crossed is pretty risky way of getting approval for a major infrastructure project.

The city has circled Aug. 23 as the date they’ll put the question to Trail voters. The timing isn’t great due to summer holidays but to take advantage of the pipe bridge construction, the time is now.

That means the city has 45 days from today to convince people that spending almost $5 million is a good idea. To put that into perspective, we searched for over 365 days before plunking down $4,500 on a car for my daughter.

To say time is of the essence is an under-statement. Yet aside from my work-related duties I’ve heard very little from the city on why this is a move that deserves my support.

While the city touts it on its Facebook site the reality is the majority of the population in Trail doesn’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, regardless of what the trend is in urban areas, and even less on the city’s site.

City representatives have talked about it at the outdoor market but those come up every two weeks, which means there are only a handful of market days before the referendum.

So that leaves the marquee in front of the Trail Memorial Centre that simply asks voters to vote yes on the referendum.

The pro-bridge message would get more exposure if the city put a sign on the Victoria St. Bridge like the Trail Smoke Eaters do to promote their next game. At least people driving over the bridge will notice that on their commute.

The city doesn’t need to produce a glossy flyer either. For example, the single page flyer that announces the spring and fall clean-ups always get my attention and space on the refrigerator.

All they need to tell me about the bridge should be able to fit on a single flyer – why the new one is needed and why the old one is beyond repair.

Simple enough but, as I already pointed out, time is running out for the sales pitch.

I agree with Coun. Cacchioni that it would be a shame if only 200 people decided the fate of such an important project. This is a big decision for Trail. One, if approved, will change the landscape of the city for decades.

But the city can’t expect people to come out unless they feel their vote is important. And the way to make anyone feel important is to talk to them, listen to them and answer their questions.

Obviously the staff and councillors can’t go door-to-door but the mail carriers certainly do (at least for the time being).

Setting up displays or signboards, at the aquatic centre and Trail Memorial Centre, are steps that can be taken quickly, effectively and efficiently.

I don’t suggest they go as far as stapling posters on poles around town but it certainly does the trick when getting the message out that there’s a garage sale or a band playing somewhere.

Perhaps the sad part of this is that I think the walking bridge would be a great addition to the city.

Anything that encourages walking is always a good investment, especially for a community like Trail, which has an older but still active population. Add to that the opportunity to re-connect areas around Butler Park and the aquatic centre to downtown would be a great move.

But the onus is on the city.

We can write about the pros and cons in the Trail Times and let readers make up their minds. But our job isn’t to convince people that it’s a good idea. That duty falls on the city.

But the clock is ticking.

There is a lot of misinformation out there. Despite publishing pictures of an artist’s rendition, some still think Trail is planning to build a suspension bridge like the one connecting to Zuckerberg Island in Castlegar.

Few seem to realize that there will still be something spanning the Columbia River, but it’s up to them if it’s going to be an unsightly pipe bridge or a useful walking bridge.

In a year of municipal elections and a year away from federal elections, residents could be forgiven if they’re overwhelmed by all the talk leading up to various voting days.

But this is one where residents will see a direct impact of their vote. That doesn’t happen very often in today’s hyper-partisan world of politics. For once every vote will matter on the final decision. It’s definitely something every tax paying Trail resident should be aware of.

It’s an easy message to deliver but it takes an effort to spread it around.

In the classic movie “Field of Dreams,” the lasting quote is, “If you build it, they will come.”

Perhaps for the City of Trail’s bridge of dreams, the catchphrase should be, “If you promote it, they will vote for it.”

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.