Council is crossing its fingers that a boardwalk trail proposal for the Hope slough will be approved by next year.
Originally denied by the province, a new application is ready for submission.
“Finally we’re taking some small steps,” Mayor Ken Popove said at the June 1 council meeting.
Since the Hope River (Slough) is listed as a class A watercourse with resident at-risk species, City of Chilliwack officials are proceeding with a new design that will minimize impacts on aquatic habitat, geared to ultimately obtaining provincial approval.
The Hope River Boardwalk Trail project is budgeted for 2022, and council was required this week to confirm support for the proposal by resolution, and submit a Crown land tenure application to build the boardwalk, which it did.
The project features a riverside gravel trail that would run from Young Road east to around Williams Street and a supported boardwalk trail and structure from Williams east to Menzies Street.
But there are a few obstacles in the way.
“It appears we’re inching slowly toward this direction, and I can’t help but think this is going to be an amazing asset,” said Coun. Chris Kloot. “But there obviously are some roadblocks in the way.”
He asked about timelines on the application. Council can now expect a response from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (FLNRORD) within about three months, council was told.
The boardwalk aspect is of the most concern to the provincial authorities, and not so much the gravel trail, according to Glen MacPherson, director of operations.
So the latest design has the least amount of boardwalk structure, which is an expensive construction method, as possible, he said.
Staff have been working with consultants on the structural engineering and environmental engineering aspects to develop an optimum project design, according to the staff report to council.
Since the project was denied, staff “went through a lot of hoops, and an appeal process,” MacPherson stated, adding that the application file was reopened about six months ago.
Staff have compiled all the info requested by ministry officials, and the council resolution of June 1 was the final piece before submission.
Asked what the chances were of the project being approved, and MacPherson replied “50/50” if he was to guess.
Coun. Jeff Shields wanted to know if construction could start after provincial approval, and the answer was work could begin in the fisheries work window of 2022.
Part of the proposal pledges the city will undertake “significant habitat improvement and compensation works” within the river to offset impacts from the boardwalk construction.
An application for a change approval under the Water Sustainability Act and a Crown Land application has been made under the Community Institutional land use program specifically applying for a nominal rent tenure (NRT), licence of occupation, for boardwalk construction.
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