The new section of the Willow Trail boardwalk on Scout Island is under construction.
Dedicated volunteers Rodger Hamilton, Rick Dawson, Don Lawrence and Ray Hornby were working on the project to rebuild approximately 60 m of raised wooden walkway on Nov. 15, 2022, despite the cold.
The group is hoping to get the project completed for the winter, though the final ramp at the end would likely have to wait until spring. A temporary set of steps is the proposed interim solution.
Two years in the making, the boardwalk will enable better wheelchair accessibility at that end of the trail, though it will not be wheelchair accessible until the first section of boardwalk is replaced, which will not be in the near future. The new section also includes a viewing platform to look out over the sheltered bay area.
Some thoughtful design has gone into the project, with a slanted railing for people to lean against and for interpretive signage to be easily attached, a plan for sitting benches at the viewing platform, and the ability for wheelchairs and other walkers to pass once wheelchairs can gain access to the boardwalk. Wheelchairs can not yet get onto the new section because of the old boardwalk which is too narrow and has no railings.
The base for the boardwalk is support by “screw piles” which are metal pilings which get screwed into the ground until they get a target load reading on the piling. Long, sturdy stringers between the pilings have to be carried into the site by hand. The Leading Edge Forestry cut the new fir required for the project, and salvaged lumber from the stringers of the previous boardwalk is being reused as decking.
Along most of the boardwalk, the pilings were put down over four metres deep, which should prevent the boardwalk from being damaged as the frost comes and goes from the ground and high water moves in and out of the low-lying area. Sleeves on the outside of the pilings allow for up and down movement without damage to the structure.
In the flooding of 2020, the existing boardwalk, which was already aging was severely damaged, with the boardwalk being completely submerged.
Williams Lake Field Naturalist Society co-president Margaret Waring was appreciative of the volunteers’ hard work, because despite having been able to raise funds for the materials, the labour is all being done by volunteers.
The project is being done late in the year after some delays with environmental approvals and then having to wait for the water levels to be low and the ground to be hard enough for the equipment to operate in the riparian zone.
The trails on Scout Island and their importance to the community meant the goal was to make it last.
“We wanted something really good and permanent,” said Waring, noting another section of boardwalk at Otter Point still needs to be replaced.