New boardwalk makes Tow Hill an easier climb

  • Mar. 30, 2011 1:00 p.m.

By Alex Northcott-Islanders and tourists will be walking the scenic Tow Hill and Blow Hole trails with a little more ease, after much-needed improvements to the boardwalk were completed on time and on budget, says Lucy Stefanyk of BC Parks.The upgraded boardwalk can now also accommodate, on at least one stretch of the trail system, wheelchair access.Tlell contractor Leandre Vigneault, who did the work, said everything went well.”Overall the trail was old and in pretty rough shape. I have to say now it is excellent… and we are very happy with the end result,” Mr. Vigneault said. “I can’t wait to see someone in a wheelchair do the trail to see what they think.”The improvements to the popular trail involved replacing the 25-year-old boardwalk with new planks of wood, and reducing the grade of the hike to the top of the hill.”We reduced the grade going to the top of the hill from about 30 percent to less than 15 percent by adding about 200 extra steps to the path, and we made it easier to walk by adding a third plank making it wider,” Mr. Vigneault said. “Now parents will be able to walk beside their children. We also added hand rails to sections where it is steep or the boardwalk is high off the ground.”The project was a huge success on a few different levels, Ms Stefanyk said.”It is something that (BC Parks) had been wanting and planning to do for a long time,” Ms Stefanyk said. “Huge accolades to the contractors and workers. They showed up during some insane weather conditions and coordinated an incredible amount of things to get the materials on and off the site with little to no environmental impact. BC Parks is extremely impressed with the project.”Mr. Vigneault said that he was pleased with BC Parks willingness to support local businesses and islanders.”We were happy to use local wood products and mills for the project as well as local labour, we had a great crew of seven people,” said Mr. Vigneault. “Not only that but about 50 percent of the wood used was salvaged; it was blow-down wood. We didn’t use pressure treated wood from off-island… so that was good.”Andrew Merilees, parks coordinator for the Old Massett Village Council, said the improvements to the trail will benefit not only visitors, but the community around it as the funds that were formerly used to maintain the site can now be allocated to other areas in need of maintenance and upkeep.”We are responsible for the maintenance, and now there will be a lot less for us to do which will allow us to replace things in other places,” he said.BC Parks is now seeking funding to complete the path to the Blow Hole and build a platform for optimal viewing of it from an appropriate location, Ms Stefanyk said.”We are still working on plans to extend the disabled access trail to a platform, and seeking funding for it, but still, this project was a very positive sign toward supporting facilities on Haida Gwaii,” she said. “We definitely have a vision to complete the project.”

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