A brand-new gatehouse at Island 22 Regional Park is just one of the projects completed by a team of five workers getting hands-on experience in construction, trail building and landscaping in Chilliwack.
Dignitaries gathered at the regional park with the Fraser River as a backdrop Monday morning to announce $320,000 in provincial funding to expand the Experience the Fraser project.
Chilliwack-Hope MLA John Martin called Island 22 one of the “jewels” of the area and said he was looking forward to seeing the results six months from now.
The project features a six-month job creation partnership between the B.C. government and Ecoworks Landscape Services for improvements at Island 22, Hillkeep Park on Chilliwack Mountain, as well as Mission trails.
“What a great project for this area,” Martin said.
With more people leaving the work force in B.C. than joining it, “B.C. is at a tipping point,” Martin noted, and it’s “incumbent” on the province to address it with projects like this.
“Everyone on this project is getting hands-on experience,” he noted, and as such it will prepare them for “in-demand” jobs in B.C. like construction and trail building.
They’re getting training in first aid, carpentry, landscaping and chainsaw use.
“Experience the Fraser” is a recreational, cultural and heritage project that extends a system of trails along the Lower Fraser River, to encourage tourism and economic development along the way.
“It connects communities, people, history, cultures and shared experiences through trails on both sides of the river,” said Martin.
Work at Island 22 should be wrapped up by mid-November, in addition to two viewing platforms that will be built at Hillkeep Park on Chilliwack Mountain.
“I think it’s great that as populations increase dramatically in the Lower Mainland that we’re also increasing access to natural spaces, not just for the commercial value of tourism, but for the human values of exercise, healthy living, and the unparalleled beauty of the Fraser Valley,” said Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness.
FVRD Chair Sharon Gaetz praised the vision of Mission MLA Randy Hawes in making the project a reality to link the trails from Hope to the Salish Sea.
“Randy said ‘I bet we could’ and I want to thank him for working behind the scenes to make it happen,” she said, also lauding the hard work of FVRD planner David Urban.
Extensive and collaborative planning for it has been ongoing for five years, said Urban, who is FRVD’s project lead for ETF.
The team of five workers will be clearing and revamping the park’s day use area to create better river views, moving the picnic shelter closer to theriver, as well as making improvements to the fenced off-leash dog area and bike skills park, said Urban.
More than 550 km of trails, almost half of which are already in place, were completed thanks to $3.5 million in contributions from the province, FVRD and Metro Vancouver with ETF. “Blueways” are set to connect communities along the Fraser, with an emphasis on river views, including the work that will clear the vegetation and trees in an area next to the boat launch at Island 22.
Three regional parks in Chilliwack will see ETF projects get underway, including trails spanning 18 km of the dike from Island 22 to Ferry Road Park.
There are 15 sanctioned boat launches along the ETF stretch of the river and many riverfront parks providing water access and amenities.