Ready to Roll 2018

by Isabel Mosseler

Thirty-five new park benches are in the process of being installed in Sturgeon Falls and West Nipissing as part of a private endeavour in cooperation with the municipality. Downtown business owner Yvon Renaud recently took it upon himself, as a personal initiative, to sell 35 benches to other businesses and private individuals for the express purpose of improving the attractiveness of downtown Sturgeon Falls. Six park benches were fixed to the municipal easement in the downtown this Monday, and further benches would be mounted to other assigned spots in the following days. Additional benches may also be purchased as the idea spreads and, according to Renaud, there’s more to a park bench than making the downtown attractive.

Renaud says he would like people to see these benches as more than just a downtown beautification project. “It’s much more. Yes, it will encourage people to walk more, because they can sit down. But it also helps in other ways.” Renaud says that benches make both social and physical activity easier. People walk more because they have more opportunities to sit. People that walk more get out more, socialize more, hopefully alleviating isolation and loneliness, especially among seniors. Renaud even says that as the culture changes to more if a street scene, having people enjoy park benches makes “loitering” a social activity, and it could also contribute to the reduction of crime. “People sitting on park benches see things.”

It could help downtown business as more people walk, window shop, buy a quick lunch and sit with someone while deciding where else to spend their money. By making it easier for people who have to walk with bags to take a rest, or parents with small children to take a short break, it brings more people into the downtown core. “For example, elderly people from the Au Chateau, there will be benches all the way down so they can rest when they want to walk downtown. They can sit and relax,” notes Renaud. He adds that he himself has already met new people he didn’t know before. “That’s why I was going to call it the Friendship Bench. It’s a way to get people to enjoy the town. It was all donated by individuals and merchants downtown, some people who bought in remembrance of people who passed away. …When I came up with the idea, everybody jumped on it. I was supposed to sell 15, I ended up selling 35.”

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Sit and stay awhile

Two downtown business owners, Rikos Charalambous and Yvon Renaud, enjoy a moment of fun in the sun on one of the new downtown benches.

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