MOUNT DESERT — On June 7, the Board of Selectmen approved a request from a group of students at Mount Desert Elementary School to paint the crosswalk on Joy Road, between the school to the Northeast Harbor Library, in rainbow colors to show support for LGBTQ individuals.
Five students, all girls, attended the selectmen’s meeting virtually to advocate for the change. They were accompanied by art teacher Shannon Westphal.
Public Works Director Tony Smith had sent the selectmen the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for painting rainbow crosswalks.
“Paint a typical crosswalk of the required size using white paint to paint the bands separated by unpaved sections of the street,” the regulations read. “Use colored paint between the white bands to create rainbow coloring within the crosswalk.”
Smith said the DOT noted, “Some communities use chalk as a first step to see what people think of the idea, then follow up the chalk by using paint. Others keep re-chalking the bands as they wear off.”
Selectman Wendy Littlefield asked the students and Westphal, “Would you want to try the chalk first to see what the community reaction is and if there are any safety issues?
“That crosswalk is a super important one because the school doesn’t have a library, so students and the community use that crosswalk a lot.”
She expressed concern that the rainbow crosswalk might distract drivers.
Westphal responded, saying, “When we were doing research about having a rainbow crosswalk, there was no data to show that rainbow crosswalks were less safe than regular crosswalks.”
The selectmen’s vote to approve painting a rainbow crosswalk was 4-1, with Littlefield casting the no vote.
“I think it’s a wonderful concept; I have no issues with the idea,” she said. “But I need some more information about safety.”