Vernon Senior Secondary Class of 1981 spray paints their names on Suicide Hill on 30th Avenue on June 27. (Submitted)

Vernon Senior Secondary Class of 1981 spray paints their names on Suicide Hill on 30th Avenue on June 27. (Submitted)

Tagging Suicide Hill OK’d by Vernon council

VSS graduating class to make mark, road to remain closed until paint removed

Vernon Secondary School’s graduation ‘Plan F’ is a go after council voted in favour to allow students to revive the traditional tagging of Suicide Hill, but the road will remain closed for nearly three months or until the paint is removed.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, students will once again pick up a can of spray paint to mark the end of their high school era. The Class of ‘81 was the last to paint the portion of 30th Avenue, otherwise known as Suicide Hill.

The idea first came to council during the May 25 meeting after Coun. Brian Quiring passed on the inquiry from a constituent. The tagging of Suicide Hill would help the Grade 12s mark their graduation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a stop to all normal celebrations.

VSS teacher and grad sponsor Kulwinder Smith said tagging this hill is “Plan F” for the grad class of 176 students.

Smith provided a report to council ahead of its June 8 meeting regarding the physically-distanced event slated for June 17.

City staff recommended council close the 2400 block of 30th Avenue to allow for students to go in groups to make their mark, but also suggested the road remain closed until September 4, 2020, at the latest.

Staff said the two-and-a-half month-long road closure would ensure the safety of motorists, as covering large portions of roadway in paint creates slippery conditions — which could be hazardous in inclement weather — and the “markings would be unfamiliar to drivers,” the report to council said.

Plus, the paint would last longer and stay vibrant “without vehicle tires wearing the paint.”

Coun. Akbal Mund said the length of the road closure is a bit “extreme.” He pointed to years past when the road was closed for the one day when students painted and allowed for proper drying time before it was reopened to vehicle traffic.

Mund said he worried if other high schools wished to do something similar on a different stretch of road, would those roads also have to be closed for nearly three months.

Staff informed council the portion of Suicide Hill under consideration is no stranger to lengthy closures, noting the roadway used to be closed in winter for “years and years.”

Coun. Kari Gares said the length of the road closure may seem long but it’s worth it to celebrate the graduates’ hard work.

“This is a great opportunity to turn the clock back and give these kids a chance to express themselves,” Gares said.

Students from Lumby’s Charles Bloom Secondary School painted Cop Hill on June 4 and a road closure was in effect between 1-8 p.m.

Vernon Museum and Archives’ community engagement coordinator Gwyneth Evans said the reason the tradition of painting Suicide Hill was stopped was that the spray paint “allegedly” spread to adjacent areas.

“I also suspect it was deemed too dangerous,” she said.

The following year, the grad class painted the VSS parking lot in lieu, Evans said.

The report to council estimates a $470 cost for installation and removal of signage to close and reopen the portion of 30th Avenue, following the unanimous vote in favour, and another $200 for temporary signage.

Council also waived the $75 road closure permit fee.

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