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New Elk Falls parking paves way for suspension bridge
A brand-new 80-stall parking lot and new access point to Elk Falls should be open around the end of October.
The trail and parking area are part of site preparation works necessary for BC Hydro’s nearly $1 billion rebuild of the John Hart Generating Station.
During construction, the existing road to Elk Falls will be closed and the public will instead use the new parking lot created off Woodstave Road.
“Brewster Lake Road across the John Hart Dam will be closed for up to three years and it may be all at once or in various durations that add up to no more than three years,” said Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro. “The public access into Elk Falls then needs to be moved and, in collaboration with BC Parks and in discussion with Rotary, the new access road, 80-spot parking lot and trail into the park will become the permanent entry once the John Hart project is finished.”
The parking lot will feature a new interpretive centre, free of charge, that will remain in place until 2018.
“It will have wall panels and an interactive touch screen to illustrate the past, present and future of the John Hart facilities, as well as the people side of the story,” Watson said. “The facility may open around the end of October and is tentatively planned to be open two days a week.”
Watson said BC Hydro is offering to donate the 14x40-foot building to museum around the end of 2018. With that in mind, the facility will be painted to match the look of the museum.
The John Hart project is also benefitting the community in other ways.
The new parking lot and trail will make the Rotary Club’s proposed suspension bridge over Elk Falls canyon possible.
“There is very limited parking at Elk Falls and the available existing parking issue was a barrier to the bridge happening,” Watson said. “Now that they have 80 parking spots – much higher than exists now – it is enough to handle the public trips to see it. The parking lot has a number of RV parking spots and two bus parking spots.”
Hydro has also offered the Rotary a key piece of the puzzle the club needs to get started on the project.
The utility recently provided Rotary with geotechnical information from Hydro’s investigative reviews which will provide the bridge’s designer with the necessary insight as to what the rock is like for anchoring the bridge on either end of the canyon.
Construction on the John Hart project could start by the end of the year. BC Hydro recently received technical and financial bids from competing teams which it is currently reviewing. The preferred general contractor is expected to be announced later this fall and Hydro hopes to sign the contract by the end of the year to begin construction mobilization.
Recent construction activity:
- The existing access road to John Hart will be moved and modified for vehicle safety
- Station View Trail opened last month.
- Single-lane Surge Tower Road to be replaced with a two-lane road for construction access
- John Hart staff moving to Campbell River Common mall during five-year construction period. About 50 John Hart staff will be temporarily re-located to the mall this fall.