Few projects make headlines in five consecutive decades. The Ganges seawalk/boardwalk/harbourwalk is one of them.
The story details are complicated. It’s easiest to say that in the 1980s the community had a grand vision for a pedestrian boardwalk around Ganges Harbour. Funding was secured, but the required rights of way from all private property owners were not, resulting in a “gap” and a project that was never finished. Former Driftwood cartoonist Peter Lynde even named his compilation of local cartoons Boardwalk to Nowhere, giving a nod to the unfortunate humour in the failed endeavour.
The project was given a serious second chance when the late Matt Steffich made it a priority beginning in 2014 when he was a Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce director. That push resulted in creation of a steering committee under the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission and Capital Regional District (CRD). The CRD director at the time, Wayne McIntyre, agreed to set aside $150,000 in Community Works Fund monies to pay for engineering, environmental and other assessments to determine the state of the existing infrastructure.
In recent years, sensitive right-of-way issues have also been broached, somewhat. Most recently, the CRD steering committee, PARC and the CRD transportation commission agreed to a project charter that will seek design and public consultation services.
Whatever happens next, it is certainly time to put away the old jokes and fatalism when it comes to talking about the new “harbour walk” or “harbourwalk.” (The fact that the CRD committee has used two words and the Chamber of Commerce group only one word may be symbolic of the differences between the two.)
It’s true that nothing would happen on Salt Spring or anywhere without a broad vision and plenty of enthusiasm. At the same time, reality must not be allowed to stray too far as the project hopefully continues to move forward in the next few years. Tangible progress has been made since Steffich and others got the ball rolling almost a decade ago now, but there’s still a long way to go before anyone’s feet touch a new seaside structure in Ganges.
Hopefully the power of the visionaries and the more practical elements can be harnessed to get us to that point before another decade passes.