THUNDER BAY – The planned roundabout at Edward Street and Redwood Avenue was already set to draw attention, as the first of its kind on a city street in Thunder Bay. Now it will also bear a striking design.
Landscaping designs approved unanimously by city council Monday will see the roundabout’s interior circle modelled on the medicine wheel, a step intended to beautify the area while recognizing Indigenous culture.
The roundabout itself, set to begin construction later this spring, was approved by council in November of 2020. Most councillors were swayed by reports from city staff suggesting the solution would lower collisions and, eventually, save money compared to the current set of traffic lights.
The medicine wheel landscaping design suggested by city administration, and endorsed by the city’s Anishinaabe Elders Council, drew praise from numerous councillors.
Coun. Shelby Ch’ng, whose Northwood ward encompasses the intersection, said it was one way the city could make good on a commitment under its Indigenous Relations and Inclusion Strategy to “collaborate on new place-making initiatives and opportunities for welcoming spaces in the city.”
The central circle will include a coloured concrete apron with medicine wheel colours, and the interior green space will also be incorporated.
“The central green space of the island would be landscaped with flowers/plants matching the corresponding colour of the medicine wheel,” read a city report. “The exterior landscaping areas would be planted with representative traditional plants following the medicine wheel associated symbolism and teachings.”
Plaques around the exterior would also “provide an overview of the meaning and traditional uses of the plants in the quadrant.”
Coun. Aldo Ruberto welcomed the proposal, saying the city hadn’t always gone the extra mile to beautify infrastructure in the past.
“I’m glad we’re doing something to beautify the area and reflect the cultural differences in our city,” he said.
The installation of the design won’t increase initial capital costs, already budgeted in 2021. However, it will add some additional maintenance costs – an estimated $30,000 every seven to 10 years to renew the thermoplastic paint on the concrete apron, and annual maintenance costs of $5,300 to maintain the medicine wheel plantings and landscaping features.
A recommendation on awarding the contract for the roundabout is expected to come to council in April, said director of engineering Kayla Dixon. The work itself will likely begin around the May long weekend and last into the fall.
“It is being completed in conjunction with watermain replacement and pavement rehabilitation from Ward Street to the James/William intersection, so it is a substantial project,” Dixon said.