Last year, the Capreol chapter of the Red Hat Society — the Little Red Cabooses — put an ad in the paper, seeking donations of “old bikes for old broads.”
Although more than a couple people were confused by the ad, bike donations soon poured in. The Red Hatters — a group of ladies aimed at having fun and helping their community — got to work, turning them into works of art.
The 38 club members spray painted them different colours, and attached baskets planted with petunias.
Thirteen of the bikes have been installed in Capreol this year, with another 13 to be installed next year. The Red Hat Society also has plans to install benches in memory of deceased members.
President Cookie Del Papa said she got the idea after seeing a similar project in a small town in Southern Ontario.
“I just thought this would be great for Capreol,” she said. “We need a punch of colour ... I think they look good. From the response in town, everybody else likes them, too.”
The bike planter project is part of a larger effort — led by the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre — to regreen Capreol's downtown.
The initiative was supported by a $25,000 grant from Canadian National Railway's EcoConnexions program, as well as another $25,000 in donations from various other community groups.
Other donors include TD Friends of the Environment, the Capreol Community Action Network, The Capreol Lions Club, the City of Greater Sudbury and Day Group.
Over the past year, flowers have been planted and benches have been installed. In an attempt to muffle the noise of passing trains, trees have been planted along the train tracks that run through town.
“Basically what we really wanted to do was rejuvenate the downtown and increase the green space,” said Cody Cacciotti, the railroad museum's operations manager, speaking at a July 31 press conference celebrating the project.
City staff also have plans to improve Capreol's waterfront over the next few years. The goal is to make Capreol resemble a 1930 railway town, said Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour, who represents the Capreol area.
“We're hoping over the next seven or eight years we can really make the change so the downtown is a really nice place to visit, and having people spend a day and look around,” he said.
The regreening project has really brought “a sense of community” back to Capreol that was perhaps lost after amalgamation, he said.
“It got a lot of people involved that have lived here for a long time, and have decided to take that extra little step,” Kilgour said. “It's been very positive.”
Communities in Bloom founding president Raymond Carriere represented Canadian National Railway's EcoConnexions program at the press conference. His organization, along with Tree Canada, helps CN deliver the program.
Regreening projects such as the one being undertaken in Capreol are incredibly important to people's well-being, he said.
“There's statistics that prove if you're in a hospital room, and you're overlooking a park versus overlooking a parking lot, you'll get better faster,” Carriere said.