Work begins next week on a project that has been years in the making. The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Boardwalk will be closed as work begins Monday to replace a section of the aging structure.
“It’s aging beyond repair and has reached the end of its life,” said Kathleen Burton, executive director with Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary.
The $320,000 project will replace about 90 feet of the floating section, as well as a 37-foot approach ramp and 15×20-foot rectangular wharf. The new boardwalk will be constructed using aluminum framing and a fibreglass decking surface, giving it a much longer lifespan.
The entire floating boardwalk is 755 feet in length and Burton hopes to have the remaining sections replaced next year.
“It’s very much a safety issue. If we don’t do the work, we will be permanently closing the boardwalk. Even the remainder of the boardwalk, it will need to be done within the next year, hopefully next summer, or we will have to close the boardwalk if we don’t get it finished.”
The work has to be completed over the summer as federal regulations only permit work over water courses between July 15 and Sept. 15.
“What may seem to be an inconvenience to some this summer will be well worth it,” said Burton. “The sensitive wetland ecosystem surrounding Swan Lake is accessible to 65,000 visitors each year because of the wharves and floating boardwalk that extends out into Swan Lake, linking one edge of the lake to the other.
“Surrounding trails will be open all summer and while I realize this isn’t the same as crossing over the open water, we need to replace the sections which are in poor condition so that the boardwalk does not need to be completely closed for reasons of safety.”
Officials with Swan Lake initially began looking at replacing the boardwalk in 2011. At that time, the total project was estimated to cost $450,000 – but since that time the cost has doubled.
The District of Saanich contributed $15,000 towards the project and the Victoria Natural History Society came up with $75,000, “so that’s a nice chunk of the project,” said Burton, who expects further fundraising efforts will allow the remainder of the boardwalk to be replaced next summer.
While the boardwalk is closed over the summer, trails through the area can still be accessed, with the public asked to use the jogging trail to the right of the boardwalk in order to enjoy a stroll around the lake.
The North Wharf, also known as the Founders Wharf, was replaced in June 2010, and this week crews completed the replacement of the Fire Hall Boardwalk. The Fire Hall Boardwalk is one of the foot bridges found along the 2.5-kilometre loop trail around the lake and wetland areas. The cost for that project was $2,500, with the money coming from a grant from TD Friends of the Environment.
The project ensures safer access to these areas for visitors who may have mobility issues. In addition to the footbridge replacement, the project includes significant invasive species removal and restoration of the affected wetland area.