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Road trip to a town divided: How Springdale really feels about the rainbow crosswalk controversy

There are a number of inclusive signs in the Indian River High School, including this one for the Gender Sexuality Alliance.
There are a number of inclusive signs in the Indian River High School, including this one for the Gender Sexuality Alliance. - David Maher

Springdale, for those unfamiliar with it, is a town just off the Trans Canada Highway about an hour's drive from Deer Lake.

There's a long stretch of road leading into town, where you will find the schools, newer stores and businesses, residential areas. Then there's a fork in the road that leads to the older downtown.

The lay of the land seems about as mixed as the controversy that propelled the town of 3,000 into the national spotlight late last week.

First, it was for Mayor Dave Edison casting the decided vote to turn down the local high school's gay straight alliance for a rainbow crosswalk, and then for Edison using the term “coloured people” in a quote to media to justify not giving any group special rights.

Outsiders and mainlanders were wondering: Is Springdale the most bigoted town in Canada?

The Telegram's Barb Sweet and David Maher took a road trip to Springdale this weekend, and talked to many people.

It seems more a town divided, split between the old and the new ways of thinking, with a whole lot of other folks just in-between.

One thing's for certain, people don't have a bad word to say about Edison.

Related stories:

IN-DEPTH: A town divided — Springdale ponders the question of inclusion

Springdale students give presentation on rainbow crosswalk, council to review request

Newfoundland celebrities roast Town of Springdale for rejecting rainbow crosswalk

Springdale's Gender Sexuality Alliance appreciative of support; says name-calling not productive

Springdale council denies request for rainbow crosswalk from Indian River High's Gender Sexuality Alliance

The road trip got pretty emotional. Some people we spoke to worry the message of intolerance will hurt those who need support to come to terms with their sexuality.

Only one person said, “No I don't want to talk about that," an older woman taking her camouflage-wearing grandson out for an ice cream cone.

But even among the older generation, there is a resistance to Springdale's characterization of being too caught up in religion to be tolerant.

“From a faith community, we can't impose our views on other people. We're all different. What right do I have to impose my views on another citizen?” said one man.

“I don't think (a town referendum) would be slam dunk against it. This place is personified as the Bible Belt. I think that is sad.”

By the way, there is no shortage of paint in this town — there are three hardware stores and a paint store.

The controversial crosswalk is on is a puddle-ridden street barely wide enough for one car. It runs between the town stadium and the high school. It could use a bit of paint, whatever the colour.

Look for our feature in The Telegram's Monday print edition and online. 

The Springdale council revisits the vote Monday night.

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