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Barrie keeping an eye on rainbow crosswalk after vandalism

'At the end of the day, it's brought focus to an issue that, as everyone has said, is very disturbing to see this happen in the community,' says police official
2019-07-15 Rainbow crosswalk burnout KL
All that's left are tire streaks after someone performed burnouts with their vehicle on the recently installed rainbow crosswalk near Meridian Place in downtown Barrie. Kevin Lamb for BarrieToday

City staff are keeping a watchful eye on the recently damage rainbow crosswalk in downtown Barrie over the next several days before deciding on their next steps.   

As BarrieToday first reported in a story on Monday, someone performed a burnout on the Simcoe Street crosswalk, between Meridian Place and Heritage Park, sometime in the last few days, leaving a thick, black streak on the pavement in its wake. 

"Our hope is to evaluate the crosswalk early next week and if the stripe is still very visible, we will clean it during the overnight so as to not disrupt traffic," said Dave Friary, the city's director of roads, parks and fleet.

Friary says he's hopeful a heavy rain will help clean up some of the mess left behind. 

"Staff are monitoring the site and, after last evening's rain, there has been a lot of dirt washed away," he said. "We would like to see the stripe naturally fade, as frequent cleaning and power washing could reduce the lifespan and possibly cause the (paint) product to fade."

Barrie police are investigating the skid-mark incident as mischief, under the belief that the burnout was purposely laid down at that location to deface the rainbow crosswalk and what it represents. 

Peter Leon, communications co-ordinator with the city's police department, said investigators have received tips from local media outlets following comments that had been made on social media. 

"We're forwarding all of that on to the community response unit," he said. "The biggest thing is trying to find who, ultimately, is responsible and being able to put the person behind the wheel.

"It may be a difficult task, but definitely in the last 30 hours or so, I would say people are certainly very aware of what has transpired with respect to the crosswalk. It's created a lot of discussion in the city," Leon added. 

There are also 10 closed-circuit surveillance cameras in the city, including one near the crosswalk, but Leon said he couldn't comment on whether any evidence has been obtained through the so-called eye in the sky. 

"Those cameras are used for a number of things," he said. "They're there for public safety, they're there for road safety.

"If we get onto something that leads us down that road... we'll certainly utilize whatever resources are required to ultimately hold the person accountable for their actions," Leon added.

Some members of the public have raised the question of whether the incident could be considered a hate crime, but police officials say that's hard to establish. 

"That's very difficult," Leon said. "Certainly, it is mischief, there's no doubt about that. We have to see where the investigation leads us, if it can be led anywhere at all. At the end of the day, it's brought focus to an issue that, as everyone has said, is very disturbing to see this happen in the community."

Friary said similar occurrences of vandalism were discovered prior to the rainbow crosswalk being laid down in early July. 

"When staff researched the crosswalk, we found similar incidents were happening in many municipalities, which is why we decided to go with the most durable (paint) product available," he said. 

The $7,000 rainbow crosswalk was paid for using community donations, with Coun. Mike McCann taking the lead in pursuing the private funding after there had been debate around the council table about whether to spend taxpayer dollars on the crossing, the first of its kind in Barrie. 

At a council meeting in May, after McCann had noted he was able to raise the sufficient funds, councillors opted to use the donations to paint the rainbow crosswalk, while the cash that had been initially approved at the committee level would go toward anti-bullying and LGBTQ2+ programs in the city.

Since the crosswalk was completed earlier this month, several people have been snapping selfies at the site and using it as a rallying point as a sign of inclusivity. 


Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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