Wanted: Improvements to the trail
Public consultation generates calls for better signs, sidewalks
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012 06:00 am
When Murray Barker goes shopping, he ignores the advertisements and looks for cars. Using a wheelchair to move around the city, Baker said many drivers are distracted looking at commercial signs, and don’t watch out for pedestrians.
Providing complimentary donuts and ballots, the St. Albert trail improvement plan committee set up its tables last Saturday to seek the public’s input. They met local business owners and shoppers at St. Albert Place to ask what they thought was necessary to improve the city’s busiest commercial district.
The committee was approved in January, appointing city staff, a councillor and community members to develop a vision regarding improvements along the trail with a focus on everything from aesthetics to mobility, accessibility, business support and safety.
People were able to place stickers on two panels illustrating possible changes, such as trees, lights, crosswalks or street signs.
Barker had little trouble finding a place to put his stickers – sidewalks.
“By the big intersection, there’s this great big sign for Colliers. Rolling along the sidewalk is dangerous, there’s no crosswalk and the drivers are distracted,” he said, pointing out that some of the sidewalks are also too elevated for him to get up to.
“For a guy in a wheelchair, they need to make the sidewalks more pedestrian friendly.”
Placing his two stickers on sidewalks and trees, Mayor Nolan Crouse said the trail had everything from traffic lights, to wide lanes and curves. It needed to become more human friendly though, making it easier for people to get up and down the trail by foot and bicycle.
“Well, it is possible but you often have to go dangerously onto the trail and then stop, get off, and lift your bike back on,” he said.
“And from a branding point of view the whole botanical arts opportunity is there. There are too many dead trees, scrubs and grass.”
Not every resident sees the trail’s improvement as pressing.
Joanne Lewis has lived in the city since 1962 and has seen her fair share of changes to the roads. She said there’s not much you can do with a highway.
“I mean, I think there are other priorities in the city that are a little more important,” she said.
Even Lewis and her husband feel bothered by the amount of commercial signs on the side of the road, though. Instead of leaving them out for weeks and months, she said businesses should be given a time limit.
“I think people put them up for a certain occasion or reason and use them and then they stay there,” she said.
“In the winter they get knocked over or skewed, and they are not the nicest to look at.”
The complaints were reason enough for members of the Alberta Portable Signs Association to mingle among committee members and shoppers.
Aman Gillani and Greg Pawlechko said the trail is popular for the volume of cars passing by each day, making commercial signs indispensable for shop owners.
“As a business owner you pay higher rent and property taxes to exist on the trail because of these cars. And whether it’s a love or hate relationship, drivers still make use of the advertising that’s there when going to a store,” Pawlechko said.
“Edmonton is essentially your biggest competitor and they loosened their laws to allow more signage, where St. Albert has increased their rates.”
With many of the city’s business owners on board, chamber of commerce president Lynda Moffat said the committee has a good group of people working toward the trail’s improvement.
“Its quite an active group, totally focused on the trail. And this will help to bring the report back to council,” she said.
“And we’ll make recommendations and a lot of the recommendations will be based on what we hear from the public.”
Depending on which recommendations are brought forward, Moffat expects council will look at them by next summer.
Committee updates are available on the City of St. Albert website at www.stalbert.ca/trail-improvement.