Gwaii Haanas receives $650,000 for hotsprings, SGang Gwaay

New pools and a renovated boardwalk are coming to Hotspring Island and SGang Gwaay, thanks to a $650,000 investment in Gwaii Haanas.

New hotspring pools and a renovated boardwalk are coming to Gwaii Haanas.

On Hotspring Island (Gandll K’in Gwaayaay), two new pools are expected to be built by next spring so visitors can enjoy the geothermally heated water the way they did before the 2012 earthquake disrupted its flow.

The $118,000 hotsprings project also includes an updated bathhouse where visitors can shower before going into the pools, and a renovated change room foundation that will protect it from storm surges.

At SGang Gwaay, an ancient Haida village recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 900 metres of boardwalk will be replaced—a $537,000 upgrade that aims to keep visitors and Haida Watchmen safe as well as retaining access for people with mobility issues and protecting the culturally and ecologically sensitive site.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Haida Nation President Peter Lantin (kil tlaats’gaa) announced the projects together last Thursday.

“SGang Gwaay holds long memories for the Haida Nation, and the village still tells stories today,” said Lantin in a press release, adding that such investments are critical for maintaining the site’s integrity.

McKenna said the Canadian government is proud of its partnership with the Haida Nation at Gwaii Haanas and has a “shared commitment to conserving, restoring, and presenting this natural and cultural treasure.”

Tyler Peet, a manager with Parks Canada, said work on the iconic hotsprings will likely go to tender this fall.

The two new pools will be built closer to shore, where hot water started percolating months after the 2012 quake.

“They’re not entirely recovered, but they’re definitely on their way,” said Peet, adding that Gwaii Haanas staff monitor a series of surface and sub-surface temperature gauges at the springs.

“The water that you see in them now is probably rainwater being pushed up from the recovering thermal water coming up from beneath.”

Peet said the source of the springs is unchanged, but the 2012 quake likely made new cracks and fissures in the rock between it and the surface, disrupting flow.

The flow is likely to increase as those cracks are pressed together again.

Visiting Hotspring Island last Saturday, Peet said the water in one small pool near the shoreline was too hot to keep a hand in.

“You’ve would’ve been able to poach your prawns,” he said.

Last week’s $650,000 announcement is part of a $3 billion, five-year investment in Parks Canada, the largest in the agency’s history.

Co-managed by the Canadian and Haida Nation governments, Gwaii Haanas had 1,809 registered visitors last season, guided in part by over two dozen licensed tour operators.