A 25-kilometre multi-use path through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is on pace to be completed next year, but some visitors are meandering through it prematurely and putting themselves in harm’s way.
The path, which will traverse the Park Reserve’s southern and northern boundaries, is roughly 95 per cent paved and remains on track to come in at $51 million, according to the Park Reserve’s superintendent Karen Haugen.
Haugen said that while the path already looks “so inviting,” the area is still an active construction zone and remains closed to the public.
“People see a pathway and it looks complete and it’s very enticing,” Haugen said. “Our hopes are people will understand that it is still currently closed and we are asking everyone to have patience with us.”
She said some portions of the trail could be ready in time to open this summer, but added that the trail weaves past several First Nations communities that are currently closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is especially important to consider how we can best respect COVID-19 restrictions and ensure the safety of First Nations communities,” she said. “How we communicate to the public and how we work collaboratively with First Nations is going to be really essential.”
Haugen said she is confident the path, which is being built by Hazelwood Construction Ltd., will be fully complete and ready to be unveiled by the summer of 2022.
“Hazelwood has done an exceptional job working with First Nations and the Park Reserve and things are progressing really well,” she said. “It’s going to be a gateway into the wonderful Pacific Rim National Park Reserve…It’s going to be a wonderful pathway for people to explore the region as a whole.”
The last section of the path expected to be built is an escarpment overlooking Long Beach called the Wayii, a name chosen by the Elders Working Group.
The Wayii was first conceptualized in 2016 but as work to clear the area progressed in 2017, it was paused as Parks Canada determined a new strategy would be needed to reduce the impact to a valuable Spruce-Fringe ecosystem and old growth forest.
“Parks Canada deferred clearing the escarpment to review and refine our knowledge of this section along the pathway route, and choose the best design to mitigate the impact of building,” according to a Parks Canada spokesperson.
Construction on the Wayii is set to begin this summer with an initial sweep of the area to salvage existing vegetation before heavy machinery is brought in to shape the area and reinforce the stability of the slope. That work will be done in collaboration with environmental and archaeological monitors.
Haugen noted that a visitor safety plan is being hashed out for the explorers who will be using the new path, which is also expected to accommodate electric bikes.
“We do know that there are local businesses that are really looking at advancing that e-bike offer, in particular since we’re going from one end of the region to the other. It’s a safe way, it’s green and it gets people around, so it is something that we will be exploring,” Haugen said.
For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.