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Decorative lighting project in city’s downtown expands its reach

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
September 19th, 2019

The city has thrown the switch on to a project that will light up and enhance the downtown with a decorative lighting scheme that is expected to build every year.

The decorative light project has been approved by city council and the installation of lighting along Baker Street will be completed within the allocated 2019 budget, with additional supports.

Last year a pilot project to bring lighting to three blocks on Baker Street decorated 21 trees with lights, with 19 deciduous trees wrapped in string lights (permanent) and two large coniferous trees decorated with festoon lights lit only for the holidays.

“The project was a trial to ensure that the decorative lighting enhanced and complimented Baker Street in both the winter and summer months, and to assess if the lights were damaged from vandalism,” said city senior planner Sebastien Arcand.

In the past the city has spent up to $15,000 a year to replace or fix decorative lights that were vandalized, he added.

“Fortunately, the project has been successful both in terms of aesthetics and mitigating acts of vandalism,” Arcand explained in his report to city council on the project. “The city has received positive feedback from residents as well as the business community regarding the addition of the decorative and holiday lighting.”

None of the lights have been damaged or vandalized since they were installed, likely due to the fact the lighting was placed at a height people could not reach from the ground.

An inventory of the trees in the downtown shows there are a total of 86 trees in the downtown area capable of accepting lights, but some areas might not easily obtain a power supply.

“Staff have been working with Nelson Hydro to get a better idea of the implications of providing power to all these trees,” said Arcand in his report to council. “Hydro are of the opinion that it is possible but will need more detailed design in areas such as Vernon Street.”

City records show that it costs an average of $2,000 per tree to add decorative lights —the price varies based on the size of trees — and includes materials, hiring an installation company and bringing power to the trees.

The 2019 budget attributed to the project is $30,000.

“Based on this budget, staff would recommend that lighting be continued along Baker Street working outwards from the completed blocks,” read the staff report to council.

Under that sum it would allow for three city blocks to be completed, with additional blocks to be added if council were to commit further budget funding.

The downtown and waterfront reserve ($8,000) and the Spurway Trust ($6,000) will provide the further source of funding in 2019, with long-term finances to be allocated annually from the downtown and waterfront reserve for the continued installation and ongoing maintenance of the program.

The expansion of decorative lighting to other blocks in the city’s downtown will be referred to the 2020-2024 Financial Plan discussion.

Taking it to committee

Last summer a five-member lighting committee was formed with the intent to select decorative lighting for the city’s downtown.

The committee included: a representative from the business community, the city’s Cultural Development Committee, the Heritage Working Group, a local designer and the Nelson Hydro operations manager.

A proposal was put forth by the committee that all trees located along Baker Street should be decorated with warm white lights.

In addition, it was determined that two of the coniferous trees along the 400 block of Baker Street should be decorated and lit with holiday lights for the Christmas season, and that the other trees on the main street be illuminated year round.

— Source: City of Nelson

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