City of Prince Rupert workers

Whale tail benches installed across city

Whale tail benches are an addition to Prince Rupert through a collaborative effort between Rona, city workers, Bandstra and Glen Saunders.

Tours on the ocean may offer viewings of whales but Prince Rupert now has guaranteed whale tail sights — with one that pierces the skyline from Mariner’s Park.

Through a collaborative effort between Rona, City of Prince Rupert workers, Bandstra Transportation Systems Ltd. and Glen Saunders, a business owner in Cow Bay, six whale tails will be a unique addition to the city.

Saunders, who has spearheaded several projects to beautify the city, purchased six whale tail benches to commemorate Cow Bay’s 25th anniversary. He teamed up with the Nanaimo muralist and artist, Jeff King, who came up with the design of the tails. They worked with a concrete company on Vancouver Island to make the benches durable. First they made a mold, then they made a steel cage structure for inside the tail, and then they were cast.

The tails were transported to the North Coast via ferry and then Bandstra Transportation Systems Ltd. brought took them the rest of the way free of charge. The placement of the tails was coordinated by Sharon Rothwell, from Rona, along with Tim Todd and city workers, Ben McCallum and Fernando Cardoso and Rona employees, David Stephens and Keith Thomas early Thursday morning.

“There was a lot of work and a lot of people involved and without them it wouldn’t have been done,” Rothwell said.

Look what the Northern View found this morning. Three concrete whale tail benches to be installed around the city. More details to come. Three concrete whale tail benches were installed around the city Thursday morning. Ed Evans/The Northern View

“It’s a little bit to give back to the community,” Rothwell said, who said the most spectacular of the tails was the dark gray one, which was why it was placed in Mariner’s Park.

The city and Rona crew also placed another whale tail by the stairs to Opa Sushi in Cow Bay, and a third was placed by the Wheelhouse at the corner of First Avenue East and Manson Way.

“We put it on the corner to utilize the views and some sightline down First Avenue. It catches your eye,” Todd said. The tail will also be one of the first sightings cruise ship passengers will see as they walk up the hill.

There are three more tails to come, and one will be placed down in Seal Cove. Todd is working with the city and Storey’s Excavating has donated the equipment to clear the area. They have already removed a sizable berm that once hid the view of the ocean.

“We’re hoping to develop further as we go. We’re doing it on a shoestring budget. There’s no date when it’ll be done,” he said. Once the area is cleaned up, Todd said the city plans to implement a park there.

The city has come a long way in the past six years since Saunders, volunteers and other businesses in the area have been involved in projects to improve the look and feel of the community.

“Our downtown was looking derelict and everybody was emotionally down. The pulp mill was closed. We were in a bad place at the time,” Saunders said.

The clean up started by painting more than 28 buildings downtown in the first two years. Businesses would purchase the paint and volunteers would do the work. Faded colours were replaced by vibrant greens, blues and yellows.

“A little bit of paint goes a long way,” he said.

Glen Saunders brings life back to more than 28 buildings in Prince Rupert with fresh paint.

Glen Saunders, along with many volunteers, help bring life back to more than 28 buildings in Prince Rupert with fresh paint. Contributed/The Northern View

The next project was having nature-themed murals painted on business or city walls by Jeff King. The cost of the murals started as a collaborative venture with painted whale tail on Johnny’s Machine Shop, or the wolves along McBride Street. Other murals in the community were paid by businesses.

The whale tail mural in Cow Bay by Jeff King.

The whale tail mural in Cow Bay by Jeff King. Contributed/The Northern View

This year, there was a mural hiatus but Saunders said he’s still working with King to do more murals and looking for the right businesses who want to get involved.

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