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Flowering up Main Street for pedestrian safety in Innisfail

Innisfail artist Karen Scarlett wants to add an artistic touch in the growing campaign to make downtown streets safer for pedestrians

INNISFAIL – When Karen Scarlett heard that her friend Lindsay Pickard had serious pedestrian safety concerns with downtown streets it ignited her artistic genes to get her paint brushes and develop a battle plan.

“We've all known it (Main Street) has kind of been regarded as a bit of a racetrack for decades, and traffic gets going pretty fast,” Scarlett told Innisfail town council during a presentation on June 3. “My answer to a lot of things is always art.”

Her idea to mitigate the dangers created by motorists at pedestrian crosswalks follows Picard’s passionate and at times emotional presentation to town council on Feb. 26.

Pickard’s presentation inspired town council to unanimously pass a motion to direct administration to conduct a pedestrian safety review and bring it back for council’s consideration, hopefully later this summer.

But in the meantime Scarlett wants to use flowers as a way to get wayward motorists to smarten up when they are approaching downtown crosswalks.

“The whole premise is to try and slow traffic down,” Scarlett told the Albertan. “Let's give them (motorists) something to look at. Let’s make them pay attention to pedestrians.”

The dual initiatives by the town and Scarlett pleased Pickard, who has been noticing increasing dangers for the past seven years in the downtown core with many motorists not paying enough attention to pedestrians.

She was nearly struck by a motorist on Feb. 15 while using a crosswalk from the Innisfail Dairy Queen side of Main Street to go to work at Fourlane Ford.

“It's lovely to know they are taking it seriously as I take it quite seriously. Anything that's going to bring more awareness to pedestrian safety is huge,” Pickard told the Albertan last week. “Karen is advocating for something and she's going to bring it in a fun art kind of way.

“I'm excited to see what the coming months and the future will be for downtown safety for pedestrians.”

As for Scarlett’s presentation to council, she said a good location to start her new street art project would be the intersection of Main Street (50 Street) and 49 Avenue.

“It’s the main intersection of town and its where the legion is and where we've got some murals that are pretty dynamic,” Scarlett told council. “I thought that'd be a nice spot to start with some art and improving the colour that's there, and maybe helping traffic slow down.”

Using the wild rose, which was designated the floral emblem of Alberta in 1930, Scarlett then presented a trio of proposed examples of how flowers at the intersection of Main Street and 49 Avenue could make matters safer for pedestrians.

One example had the flower in the middle of the intersection, but Scarlett warned it would have a short lifespan, perhaps only a year, due to repeated daily traffic running over it.

She also proposed wild roses on the sidewalks around the intersection, with the third proposal having flowers on the corners of the intersection where there wouldn't be excessive tire movement running over them.

Although no promises were made to Scarlett, council members praised her presentation, and offered their own perspectives on how her street art proposal would not only be beneficial to the pedestrian safety issue but also to the ongoing discussion about public art

Coun. Dale Dunham noted the public can add their voices to the upcoming workshop discussions on June 17 and 18 at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre to develop a Public Art Framework for Innisfail.

“At this point in time it’s really good to be hearing about the possibilities and what we can do,” said Dunham. “I definitely think we should continue the conversations and any other things that you have going on.”

Mayor Jean Barclay noted a consultant will be working on an assessment of various areas throughout the town for crosswalk safety, and that Scarlett’s idea could be a good fit.

 “It’s kind of merging things together with the assessment and public art, so timing is perfect,” said Barclay.

The mayor told Scarlett to keep the dialogue open with administration as discussions and work will continue with both pedestrian crosswalk safety and public art.


Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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