Magnetawan starts its own Rock Snake Project

·4 min read

Magnetawan has joined a growing list of communities that have started Rock Snake Projects.

In the case of this community, the Rock Snake follows the Lions Parkway, known locally as the Lions Trail, with the goal of extending all the way to Centennial Beach.

Deputy clerk Laura Brandt said a community member approached the municipality about the idea after hearing about the various Rock Snake Projects in southern Ontario.

With the approval of town council, as well as the recreational committee and community centre board committee, the project was green lit.

COVID-19 is the catalyst for Rock Snake Projects.

Brandt said in the early days of the pandemic, many front-line workers and first responders worked tirelessly to stay ahead of the virus, and the public recognized their efforts by painting messages on rocks.

Brandt said the idea of messages on rocks spread quickly through social media until “suddenly, rock snakes started popping up everywhere.”

Brandt said when the municipality agreed to create its own Rock Snake, the only decision was where to put it.

“We had a few locations in mind like the municipal office,” Brandt said. “But we felt that because the pathway gets a lot of foot traffic and people use it as a walking trail, that was the best place to put the Rock Snake. Plus, it allowed us to create the tagline, 'Help us reach the beach.'”

Brandt said the organizers decided to start the project with a bang so it would have an immediate impact, if suddenly painted rocks appeared lined up next to each other instead of just two or three lying on the ground.

Brandt approached Magnetawan Central Public School with the idea of getting the students from junior kindergarten all the way to Grade 8 to each paint a rock.

The school jumped on board and the result was 73 rocks the municipality laid down on Lions Trail this past Wednesday.

“This got them really involved in the community and they had a chance to be creative,'' Brandt said of the students' involvement.

“They were told to just be creative and artistic. They were extremely excited and ecstatic with their work, and their effort has been well received. I suspect the kids will make regular visits to Lions Trail to see their work.”

Brandt said a local Lions member, who also owns a quarry, donated the rocks and got them to the school.

The municipality spent about $200 on supplies like paints, brushes and sealers and the students took over from there painting a huge variety of images.

The head of a snake marks the start of the Rock Snake.

Brandt's daughter Lily, a first-year university student, painted the head.

As the Rock Snake phenomena picked up steam, communities around the world began making long chains of Rock Snakes.

Brandt saw in the Guinness Book of World Records that the previous Rock Snake record of about 8,500 rocks long got smashed by another community that created a Rock Snake of more than 24,000 rocks. Brandt jokingly said her dream of seeing Magnetawan establish a world record “may be crushed.”

She said the starting point of the local Rock Snake is about 300 metres from Centennial Beach and although it's not a great distance, it will take several thousand rocks to reach the beach. The municipality is encouraging its residents, both full-time and seasonal, as well as those in nearby communities, to paint their own rocks and add them to the existing line.

Brandt said participants don't need municipal approval.

The rocks can come from anywhere, including your own backyard.

A metal sign is now in place at the start of the Rock Snake encouraging people to add their own painted rock to the line.

Brandt will check the site on a regular basis and report the progress back to community members.

The Rock Snake will be permanent and serves as one of the community's public arts projects.

Brandt said that's another reason why Lions Trail was chosen as the Rock Snake Project site, because it's close to the locks, the Magnetawan Heritage Centre Museum and the nearly completed mural – a 65-foot long, two-foot high concrete wall – depicting the village's history.

Brandt said next summer, the municipality hopes to continue the Rock Snake Project on a wider scale by having an activity table at the museum, where residents and visitors can bring and paint their rocks and add to the line as the Rock Snake makes its way to the beach.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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