Yellowknife councillors talk city beautification

'United in Celebration', Francois Thibault's sculpture at Somba K'e Civic Plaza. Emelie Peacock photo
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Yellowknife’s mayor and council are debating how to preserve the uniqueness of the city.

Spurred by Councillor Niels Konge’s remarks at a council meeting last month about a particularly boring and dark stretch of Franklin Ave, councillors weighed in on where they would like to see the city go with beautification efforts.

“Do I have a hate on for trees? No, not really, but when they’re everywhere it’s not unique. We just look like Edmonton now, who the heck wants to live like those yahoos?,” Konge said, kicking off the discussion Monday.

Konge, echoed by Councillor Stacie Smith, stressed the need to preserve the uniqueness of the city. Both referenced Doug Griffiths, the author of 13 ways to kill your community, as an inspiration behind the discussion. Smith added the groups who need to be asked what they think makes Yellowknife unique are seniors and children, as well as members of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

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“Yellowknife is unique because we’re at the end of the road, where it still is in comparison difficult to get things. So we tend to be very creative in using the things that we have, the things that are already here, to do what we need to do,” Konge says. He referenced the trash to treasure mentality at the Yellowknife dump and the fact that the city has some of the best artists in the world.

City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett says the city has undertaken some unique projects including banners, the painting of transformer boxes by local artists and the installation of a public art piece outside city hall – now christened ‘Elon Muskox’ by popular demand.

Konge says the city of Chetwynd, British Columbia is a great example while Councillor Steve Payne was inspired by downtown Whitehorse and says he’d like to see a bold art piece in the style of Vegreville, Alberta’s 2.5 tonne Ukranian-style Easter egg.

“At least a sixty-foot giant metal yellow knife somewhere in this town,” Payne ventured. “I think we need to go with the Alberta model with this, so let’s get it done.”

Councillor Shauna Morgan says the choice doesn’t have to be trees versus public art and mining artifacts, rather all of these elements can co-exist.

“We could combine the placement of artifacts and banners with trees,” she says, adding choosing local species and working to innovate and keep trees alive is important. “One of our unique features…is that we are this wilderness city. It’s what we’re trying to sell and to promote both for people to come here to live and come here to visit.”

Bassi-Kellett says it’s a particularly good time to be having this discussion, as the city is bringing in residents to the community plan review process. Focus groups are happening all week and sessions open to the public are being held Wednesday, March 6th from 9 a.m. to noon and Thursday, March 7th from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Hall.

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