By Steve Hubrecht 

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Invermere councillors further discussed plans to create a pedestrian-only area in downtown Invermere this summer and allocated money to the project.

The plan was first proposed by the Invermere Business Committee (IBC) last month and envisions closing off 12th Street between its intersection with main street (7th Avenue) and the back alley that runs parallel to main street half a block to the west. This stretch of 12th Street is adjacent to the Cenotaph Plaza, and is about as smack dab in the middle of Invermere as it is possible to get.

The IBC hopes to create a destination-type feel to the area, beautifying it with extra flower beds, and bringing in musicians or performers, food trucks, picnic tables with umbrellas, a water bottle-fill station, a misting tent, a shaded area, activities and games for kids, and play space, among other things.

“We want to make it a happening spot. Many other places have a pedestrian-friendly area of some kind in the (town) centre,” said Invermere councillor Grant Kelly. “We do not want to close main street, but we do want to give our downtown some of the vibrancy that pedestrian-friendly areas can create.”

“We want to have it happen this summer,” added councillor Gerry Taft. “We need to try it and see how it plays out.”

The District of Invermere will spend $20,000 on the initiative. The money will come from Invermere’s provincial COVID-19 Safe Restart grant.

The potential closure of 12th Street prompted two letters from concerned valley residents.

“We are opposed. Access to the post office for the disabled, elderly and families with young children can be challenging at the best of times during tourist seasons. Also people sending and receiving parcels would be extremely inconvenienced. Why not consider the locals first and foremost,” wrote Twyla Rad, Nolan Rad, and Fran Rad. They noted instead that there is plenty of room at the site of the old community centre (which is currently an open gravel parking lot), and plenty of parking space there too.

“Please don’t make accessing the post office difficult when there are clearly other options,” they implored.

In a second letter, Anna Rad wrote,  “I wish to express my disapproval of the plan to close part of 12th Street. This will make accessing the post office even more challenging. The handicapped and elderly will struggle to access. The traffic flow will be hazardous. And finally further parking spots will be lost.”

Invermere councillors referenced the letters, but didn’t entirely agree with the points raised by the Rads.

“I think there is some confusion over where exactly will be blocked. You will still be able to park right in front of the post office,” said Taft

Councillor Kayja Becker agreed that it was “a low risk” move to close the small stretch of 12th Street. “If we try it and it doesn’t work, we can undo it quickly,” said Becker. “I support us trying it and seeing how it goes.”