SUNDRE — A portion of the first phase of an educational boardwalk that will eventually feature interpretive signs identifying local fauna and flora was recently completed.
Unveiled on Saturday, Oct. 2 during a medicine walk followed by an Indigenous smudge ceremony — akin to a blessing in recognition of Sundre’s location on traditional Treaty 6 and 7 territories — the nature viewing platform area provides “a sneak peak” of what is yet to come, said Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer.
Although stairs have in the interim been built extending out from the viewing platform, which can be accessed by parking at the Visitor Information Centre and walking west along the berm until a trail goes into the forested area, they will eventually be replaced by a ramp to remove mobility barriers.
Additionally, the boardwalk itself will eventually also be extended to be more accessible from the parking area.
“So, anybody will be able to access it,” said Nelson, later calling the project, “a standard for what the community is going to look like and become.”
The informative signs that identify plants and animals will feature English, Latin as well as Indigenous nomenclature, she said.
The project has been several years in the making to reach the point it has from the brainstorming stage, with the COVID-19 pandemic having imposed a few hurdles by causing delays while the substantial spike in lumber prices this summer also presented another challenge.
“This project has been in the works for more than three years, closer to four,” she said.
But plenty of support from community volunteers and businesses like Sundre Forest Products, which donated lumber, has also helped to complete a portion of the boardwalk’s first phase, she added.
While the boardwalk will offer visitors another local landmark to consider checking out when they come to town, it will also provide an educational opportunity for the community, including for example school field trips, she said.
Attending the unveiling were local dignitaries including mayor Terry Leslie as well as members of council, and representatives from the Sundre & District Chamber of Commerce, the Sundre Tourism Association and the Sundre Bike n’ Ski Club.
Mike Beukeboom, who for years had a vision for the project after an inspirational seed was planted in his mind upon seeing a nature boardwalk in the vicinity of Mount Washington on Vancouver Island, said that without contributions such as the donation of lumber, it would have been a much different conversation requiring more time spent securing funding.
A project of this scale, Beukeboom estimated, would run up a cost upwards of $250,000 or more had it been built through a contractor.
“When you can have these folks come and support this incredible community project, that’s a game changer. It really is,” said Beukeboom, referring to contributors including Sundre Forest Products, Sundre Home Hardware and Well Works.
Recognizing there remains a lot to accomplish, Beukeboom said it was “satisfying” to see this portion of the first phase completed.
“I’m not exuberant in the sense that there’s a lot of work yet to be done,” he said, expressing gratitude for the support of council and administration.
There are no interpretive displays up yet, but Beukeboom anticipates some of the first signs should be installed next spring.
As time further progresses, ramps will eventually replace any temporary stairs and the boardwalk will at one point connect from the Visitor Information Centre, he said.
“Phase 3 will be a full, complete loop,” he said, adding that will represent roughly 1,100-metres of boardwalk.
Provided the stars align, Beukeboom envisions an amenity that rivals the quality offered by provincial and even national parks, with the potential to even provide access to smaller motorized vehicles like golf carts so tours for seniors can be organized.