Nelson Festival of Lights organizers have requested another $33,300 to spend brightening up Baker Street during the holidays.
The group is requesting the money come the City’s Spurway Trust Fund, which is money put aside for downtown beautification. Last year they were given $10,000 from that fund to launch the Festival of Lights (though they requested $29,000).
Between the grant from the city and $5,000 fundraised by the group, last year they were able to purchase lights and decorations for all the Baker Street lamp posts and to decorate the two large conifer trees, as well as to host the Elf Walk event alongside Santa on Baker (local actors were paid to play elves). All the street-level lights were strung by volunteers, and city crews put the lights in the trees.
Festival organizers Joy Barrett and Maureen Crawford attended a recent council meeting with a report on their 2012 effort and the request funds to expand in 2013.
If the city approves the funding request, the plan is to purchase white lights for 86 tress downtown, and for the tops of all the buildings on Baker Street.
“We’re hoping to get something like five kilometres of lights,” said Crawford.
The tree lights could be illuminated year-round, while the buildings would only be lit during the winter months.
The pair also want to coordinate a winter street festival on the scale of Marketfest, with live music, food vendors and artisans.
Barrett, who’s also Nelson’s cultural development officer, said the money invested in lights will benefit the community by attracting more tourism.
“This is one of least expensive ways to make an impact on city,” she said. “It’s really important for tourism that when people visit they go away saying what a wonderful, beautiful place Nelson is.”
Barrett and Crawford showed council images of other cities with streets lit up the way they hope Nelson’s will soon be — pointing to Fernie, Rossland and Whistler as examples.
Each councillor took a turn complimenting the women for the work they had done to date. Now it will be up to city staff to report back on the request.
Nelson City Manager Kevin Cormack said longterm maintenance costs for the lights would need to be considered.
“The city could not afford to maintain the [lights] it purchased in the trees in the past,” he said.
Councillor Paula Kiss also pointed out the inherent difficulty with placing lights in trees, “the trees grow and the lights don’t.” She suggested it might be wiser to limit the lights to man-made structures.
Vandalism is also a concern. This past winter eight strings of lights and three bows, worth a total of $160, were destroyed by vandals. But Crawford said having the lights out of reach — high on trees and along the tops of buildings — will make them more difficult to tamper with.
She and Barrett are urging the city to respond to their funding request by the end of April, to provide sufficient time to order the lights through Hipperson’s Home Hardware. The local building store is providing the nights at cost.
They are also asking that the city examine its downtown electrical infrastructure to determine if repairs or upgrades will be needed to handle the load of lights.