When City of Vernon councillors approved the road closure of Suicide Hill to allow Vernon Secondary School’s grad class to paint the hill, Coun. Dalvir Nahal said she suspected other schools would make requests of their own.
Clarence Fulton’s grad committee asked council to consider closing a portion of Fulton Road to allow their graduates to take part in their own painting activity, but instead, city staff recommended council redirect the grad committee to the School District No. 22 to ask permission to paint the parking lot.
Lengthy discussion and brainstorming took place during the June 22 meeting of council as ideas were tossed around about what the city could do to help the students commemorate their accomplishment.
City staff’s report said the proposal shouldn’t be supported by council as the markings left behind by students do not meet ministry requirements and would be unrecognizable by motorists. Large portions of painted roadways could also become slippery in inclement weather, which is a liability concern, city staff said.
“The road closure of ‘Suicide Hill’ was to provide VSS with the opportunity to recreate a historical event of painting the hill by VSS grads, to ensure the safety of motorists travelling the roadway and to leave the proposed grad artwork for a period of time in which the students and public could enjoy the artwork,” the report to council stated.
Coun. Scott Anderson said although there is a precedent for VSS, this was a small ask of Fulton’s Class of 2020.
“I’d hate to just say no to these guys who lost a chance for a real graduation,” he said.
Coun. Brian Quiring said the city should permit the closure of the road between Okanagan Avenue and Teal Road to allow the 96 students the opportunity to make their mark. But he said he only wanted the road closed for a few days.
Instead of leaving the road closed for several weeks, like the portion of 30th Avenue — or Suicide Hill, Quiring said perhaps signs indicating there are unregulated road markings ahead on Fulton Road could be placed on either side of the painted roadway.
“Paint the road,” he said. “We’re turning everything into such a complicated… I don’t know why.”
Coun. Kari Gares said the temporary closure of Fulton Road followed by its reopening could result in “backlash” from residents of Suicide Hill whose road will remain closed until the artwork is washed off or Sept. 4 at the latest.
Nahal asked what Lumby did differently, as the Charles Bloom Secondary graduates painted a portion of Cop Hill and the road was only closed for eight hours during the painting event. The road has since been reopened and traffic patterns have resumed.
“Could we see what they’re doing that’s different than ours?” she asked city staff.
“If Lumby can do it, we can do it,” Quiring said, moving to allow for the road closure for the event only.
Coun. Kelly Fehr reminded his council colleagues the reopening of Fulton Road after the painting event would be going against “professional advice and creating a slippery road.”
Vernon CAO Will Pearce followed that by reiterating city staff is against leaving a highway open with non-permitted markings.
“Maybe I’m too cavalier about safety,” Quiring said, withdrawing his motion.
Gares pitched the idea that the City of Vernon offers up one of its city-owned parking lots, such as the Kal Tire North Arena parking lot.
“We can approach Seaton and they can do it too because it is big enough for them and everyone who frequents the Farmers’ Market can see it,” she said.
Nahal said the school parking lot is the ideal spot as the city wouldn’t need to spend money or hours on maintenance.
“My concern is that VSS asked and Fulton is asking and tomorrow Seaton may come and ask,” Nahal said. “What if this becomes an annual thing? Are we going to have this discussion over and over again.”
Ultimately, council voted in favour of city staff’s recommendation to refer the grad committee to seek permission from School District No. 22 to paint the parking lots on the school grounds. With that correspondence, council will also explain the reasoning behind its decision, including liability concerns and ministry requirements.