Ahousaht Ha’wiih partner in rebuild of boardwalk to hot springs

Hot Springs Cove, BC

Nearly two kilometers of boardwalk and staircases are being replaced as Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society prepare for an uncertain 2021 tourist season while the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

According to John Caton, general manager of Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS), BC Parks awarded the $1 million capital project to MHSS in late 2020.

Ahousaht, through MHSS, has a contract with BC Parks to maintain and operate Maquinna Provincial Park in Hot Springs Cove.

MHSS and Ahous Business Corporation (ABC) were incorporated by the Ahousaht Ha’wiih, the elected chief, council and advisors in 2012 to ensure that the First Nation retains control over and decisions about economic development in Ahousaht territories.

Through MHSS, several Ahousaht business interests are managed and developed to benefit membership, including ecotourism and transportation.

BC Parks hired 43K, a company from Campbell River, as general contractor for the project. Caton said the company has a solid reputation with BC Parks, having built other boardwalks and infrastructure in the province.

In what he calls a joint venture, Caton says MHSS and 43K are rebuilding the entire 1.7-kilometre boardwalk at Maquinna Marine Provincial Park.

“We have a work camp set up at the end of the wharf that is housing the workers. We have been there since mid-January and no one is allowed on the work site,” he told Ha-Shilth-Sa.

The old boardwalk starts near the site of what was a general store, owned by pioneer Ivan Clarke and family. It winds through the old growth forest featuring giant cedar trees and up and down rugged coastal rock faces.

Many of the planks were removed and replaced with beautifully carved pieces, often made of cedar. But this posed a problem. The newer planks made the boardwalk uneven, posing a tripping hazard. BC Parks put out a call to the artists who made the planks, offering to return them.

Ahousaht workers arrived at Hot Springs Cove in January 2021, first to build a base camp at the head of the trail and then to begin tearing apart the old boardwalk. There are two crews of four workers from Ahousaht that work eight-day shifts.

The construction project is supervised by 43K staff while Ahousaht supplies lumber, transportation and labor.

According to Caton, Ahousaht purchased lumber in Port Alberni from Trans-Pacific Trading. They barge the lumber to the west coast, storing at the Tofino Airport. From there it is bundled in 700-1,000-pound loads to be carried by helicopter and dropped at sites along the trail.

In an agreement with residents on the strata property adjacent to the park, old lumber is dropped there. They will take what they can recycle and will dispose of the rest. According to Caton, and estimated 50 per cent of the old boardwalk will be recycled.

“The project is on time and on budget,” Caton said, adding that the work is expected to be completed by the end of June 2021.

As for carving new planks for the new boardwalk, this will not be allowed. Ahousaht park workers will monitor the boardwalk when it opens again for visitors.

The park has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic by provincial health orders. The reopening date of the park will depend on the status of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Caton, Ahousaht leadership and BC Parks will make a call on whether or not to open the park later this spring.

Caton says the best way to determine when the park is open is to visit the Provincial Parks website for updates.

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