‘Memorial Harbourwalk’ fund launched

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A community fundraising campaign has been been launched in hopes of completing a long-stalled project with a timeline that has outlasted two of its biggest champions to date.

The Memorial Harbourwalk Fund, now open on the GoFundMe platform, has a $100,000 target and the goal of finishing the “Matt Steffich & Arvid Chalmers Harbourwalk” at last. The fundraiser was created by islanders Wayne Tepper and Bruce Cameron. 

“It’s time to make this project happen. Bruce and myself have taken it upon ourselves to really light a fire under it again,” Tepper told the Driftwood. 

Most of the existing boardwalk was built in the late 1980s. The campaign to finish the project by bridging gaps and extending the structure around more of the harbour has been gaining steam over the past six or seven years and is now on the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation project list.

Tepper said he was close to both Chalmers and Steffich, who died in 2016 and 2020, respectively. Chalmers had built part of the original infrastructure in front of property he co-owned on the waterfront, and made several creative proposals over the years for completing the missing gaps. Steffich championed the completion project as an executive member of the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce and as chair of the Harbourwalk Steering Committee, which reports to the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission. 

The fundraiser campaign was announced during a memorial event for Steffich held on Aug. 22. 

“Matt’s celebration of life was a wonderful experience, just amazing,” Tepper said. “He was well-loved by this community. This project was so important to him. So it’s really time for this project to be built – in both of their memories.”

Salt Spring’s previous Capital Regional District electoral area director Wayne McIntyre awarded $150,000 in Community Works Funds to initiate planning work on the project. Part of the funding was used to assess the existing boardwalk structure and the feasibility of rehabilitating or replacing sections of the boardwalk that have been closed. Archeological, environmental, geotechnical and structural studies have also been completed.

Speaking during the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee meeting last Tuesday, current CRD director Gary Holman reported that next steps will be to commission the detailed design drawings, along with consultation with First Nations, Ganges Marina and the public in general. A request for proposals to undertake this work is being drafted, he said.

Holman said the harbourwalk is a PARC priority, but it has been delayed because of some other opportunities that arose, such as the possibility of acquiring new parkland on Mount Maxwell and leasing the vacant Salt Spring Middle School for use by community groups. The need to act quickly on those opportunities has taken up crucial staff time, but Holman said there is funding set aside for the detailed designs and he hopes work will get underway this fall. Those drawings will also aid future grant applications, he noted, although the project is still far from the funding and building phases.

Steffich’s widow Christine is listed as the GoFundMe campaign beneficiary. Tepper said she will be the keeper of the funds until there is more known on how the community can get involved.

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