Glowing trail in Waterloo Park to cost $800,000

The City of Waterloo has approved a project to resurface part of the Waterloo Park promenade with stones that would glow at night. It's hoped the glowing trail will attract visitors to the area.

Park committee members want to create 'something exceptional' with the promenade

Waterloo City council said the glowing path in Waterloo Park would have been similar to the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle path in the Netherlands. However, they decided to drop the idea Monday. (

Glowing stones on the central promenade in Waterloo Park could attract tourists to the area, according to city staff.

"I think it will be a huge attraction," said Anna lee Sangster, a landscape technologist and the promenade project manager, during a finance and strategic planning committee meeting Monday afternoon.

It would be a North American first, she noted.

The glowing stones would be part of the central promenade. If that doesn't work, it could go on the History Walk along the edge of Silver Lake or a new plaza area.

The central promenade through Waterloo Park is a stone surface. This project would upgraded the path to a hard surface with part of it incorporating some kind of aggregate that glows. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

The idea behind the glowing stones is that they would "pull people off" the LRT cars, encouraging them to explore the park and uptown Waterloo, Sangster said.

It would be similar to the 600-metre Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path near Eindhoven, Netherlands, which was inspired by Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night painting.

"It's understood that tourists flock to this trail when dark falls," Sangster said.

The idea of the glowing stones is also a nod to the Perimeter Institute, Coun. Melissa Durrell said.

"What I love about it is we're paying homage to our community and the future of our community with this," Durrell said.

"As we try to create this trail, it became really apparent to us it had to be something exceptional," she said of the decision to move forward with the idea.

She said thousands of people visit Waterloo each year: "Let's wow them when they're here."

'I don't want to live in a grey city'

The glowing stones won't come cheap, though. Council has approved a budget of $806,000.

Coun. Mark Whaley called it very ambitious, but had reservations about the project. He worried what effect snow, salt and nearby lights would have on the trail.

"The bold step of having a glowing trail is something that captures my imagination," he said, but also added later in the meeting that while it could be a boon for tourism, "It could be a really big bust for us as well."

I know it sounds frivolous, but a city is more than pipes and sewers and electricity. It's got to have a little bit of heart.- Coun . Brian Bourke

Coun. Diane Freeman said she's not concerned the aggregate that would go into the project would be any different than any used currently for roads or sidewalks, meaning it would stand up to the abuse of winter.

"If anyone has been a naysayer about spending money in Waterloo Park over the last five years, it's definitely been me," she said after throwing her support behind the project.

"It's going to be a pathway plus a piece of public art, and I can see that it will function in both of those realms extremely well."

People have told Coun. Brian Bourke there are better ways to spend money.

"I know it sounds frivolous, but a city is more than pipes and sewers and electricity. It's got to have a little bit of heart," Bourke said.

"I don't want to live in a grey city. I want to live in a place that's interesting, that I can take my grandkid when she comes and visits and she'll wow herself of walking over glowing stones."

Artist Ted Fullerton will make two long tables that will encourage people to sit down and gather in Waterloo Park. This is the artistic concept for those pieces.

Squirrel and acorn tables approved

The city also set aside $593,000 to spend on other improvements to Waterloo Park this year and next year. The plans, which are set out in the park's master plan, includes creating a festival area that will serve as the principal outdoor performance venue in the park.

As well, the Bauer parking lot would be redeveloped with this funding.

Two new art pieces were also approved during Monday night's meeting. The city awarded the Waterloo Park Harvest Tables public art project to Woodstock, Ont., artist Ted Fullerton. He will make the art on two useable tables that will encourage people sit sit down and gather, the city said. A squirrel and an oversized acorn are featured on each of the tables.

The cost for the tables is $50,000, but is being funded by a local company.

Watch the full finance and strategic planning committee meeting below. (Talk about the Waterloo Park upgrades begins around the 32 minute mark.)


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