Ragged XXX Road
Ontario town says souvenir Yellowknife street sign offensive

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 12/99) - A replica of one of Yellowknife's landmarks is igniting moral indignation in the small southwestern Ontario town of Caledonia.

Last July, Peter and Lydia Koning proudly posted a souvenir Ragged Ass Road sign, a gift from family in Yellowknife, in front of their home in the town of 6,500.

The sign stood as a reminder of family far away, and amused passersby -- until two weeks ago.

On April 13, the Konings received a terse letter from Town of Haldimand Public Works superintendent Ted Walters. (Haldimand administers Caledonia and surrounding small towns.)

"We have noticed the "Ragged Ass Road" sign beside your driveway on River Drive, and although it may be humourous to some it may also be offensive to others," wrote Walters.

He went on to state the sign could create confusion for emergency services. Walters ended his letter by saying if Koning did not remove the sign by May 3, public works would remove it for them.

"I think it's kind of funny, but we were kind of taken aback when we received the letter," said Peter Koning.

"In a way it's a veiled insult to Yellowknife," said Koning. "The sign is OK for Yellowknife, yet it's not OK for Haldimand."

Koning said local street signs look quite different from his souvenir sign, and there's no way his driveway could be mistaken for a road --the argument that it could confuse emergency services doesn't wash.

But Haldimand Mayor Maria Trainer said it does. The sign, she said, was posted on town property, a road easement. And town bylaws allow no personal property to be placed on easements.

Leaving the emergency services debate aside, what is it about the sign people in Caledonia find offensive?

"Well, I'd imagine it's the ass part," said Trainer.

Koning has taken the sign down until the matter is resolved. He has sent letters explaining his side of the story to the town, and said he's prepared to state his case in person to council if necessary.

Meanwhile, back in the home of the real Ragged Ass Road, Mayor Dave Lovell, like, Koning, found the debate "funny."

"There was a time when there was a King Street and a Queen Street here, named after streets in an Ontario municipality," recalled Lovell. "You'd think they'd be willing to return the favour."