Christmas lights out on Baker Street

The city told a volunteer group Christmas lights can't be hung from lamp posts for safety reasons.

Baker Street is a little less lit this holiday season.

Maureen Crawford isn’t feeling very festive lately.

Crawford used to be part of the Nelson Festival of Lights committee, which was comprised of about six volunteers who decorated Baker Street’s lamp posts in Christmas lights for the last five years.

“It just transformed the street,” said Crawford. “People were coming down and saying that they were feeling really drab until they turned into the street and saw all the lamp posts lit up and it just lifted their spirits. … People were coming from Kaslo and Castlegar and places like that because they said it looked Christmasy, and they wanted to shop.

“It was good for the businesses and it was good for the morale and it was just good for the community we thought.”

Those lights are nowhere to be seen this year. In February, the city found corrosion in several lamp posts and told the volunteers it wasn’t safe for the lights to be hung.

Crawford, who along with her husband Len and two other volunteers was recognized by the city last week for her work, said the missing holiday ambiance is a shame.

“There’s no atmosphere,” she said. “We [used to] dress every single lamp post on that street from the other side of the bridge in Railtown all the way up to Chrysler garage.”

From the city’s perspective, the lack of lighting is temporary. Mayor Deb Kozak said the posts at Josephine and Baker streets have already been replaced, and that that the city’s planned re-design of Baker Street in 2017 will account for the remaining posts.

She also disagreed with the opinion that downtown isn’t jolly enough right now.

“We encourage business owners, we’ve got some great window displays and that kind of stuff in the downtown core,” said Kozak. “The lights on the buildings are still working and we’ve got a few trees decorated, so I think it looks pretty festive.”

Tom Thomson, the executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, said he hasn’t heard complaints from businesses about the holiday lighting. What he’d like to see in the re-design plans is a lighting plan that’s not only cost effective but can be used year-round.

“You could have white lights through trees in the summer time at 10 o’clock at night and that would look really cool,” he said. “And that would look neat in the winter time as well. There’s decorations you can hang where they have the hanging baskets, and all of a sudden you’ve got your downtown lit up and it’s lit up on a year-round basis. So maybe that’s the way we can look to the future.”

When that future does come, Kozak said the city will still need volunteers to pitch in — just not at the expense of personal safety.

“We need a blend of volunteers and city workers. We certainly would not be able to afford to do anything without the help of volunteers,” she said. “But there’s got to be some common sense on what volunteers do and don’t do. We certainly wouldn’t want one of those volunteers at the top of evergreens trying to hang lights.”

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