A 90-metre long suspension bridge over Elk Falls could be open to the public as soon as next June.
The Campbell River Rotary Club project has been in the works for some time, but now the proposal has been officially released to the public, complete with a timeline and budget.
The suspension bridge is expected to hang 60 metres above the canyon floor to provide breathtaking views of one of the area’s most well-known natural wonders.
The first 40 metres of the south side of the bridge would be in the trees and could be accessed from the existing trail along the falls.
“This project will showcase one of Campbell River’s most spectacular natural wonders by providing a clear, unobstructed view of the falls and canyon,” said Lorrie Bewza, chair of the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge Project.
The goal is to model the bridge after existing suspension bridges over Englishman River, Capilano River and Lynn Valley Canyon in the Lower Mainland.
Those bridges are constructed with steel cables strung between two anchor points, but final design and detail for the Elk Falls bridge won’t be complete until a geotechnical study is conducted and a request for proposals issued, Bewza said.
The Elk Falls project also includes two new viewing platforms and trail expansion.
“The first viewing platform will be accessed from the lower parking lot, which now provides access to the existing viewing platform,” Bewza said.
“This portion of the trail is very flat and will allow seniors as well as children and those with mobility challenges to view the spillway and provide a partial view of Elk Falls.”
A further 60 metres down the existing user trail would be an access point to the suspension bridge and the start of a new trail which would descend 10-12 metres down to a second proposed new viewing platform with a direct view of the falls.
“The viewing platform is envisioned as a cantilevered platform,” Bewza said.
“It is possible to see the entire falls from the top of the falls to the bottom of the canyon floor.”
The Rotary Club would also like to complete the Upper Canyon View Trail loop by constructing a trail from the north end of the suspension bridge to the existing Dean Martin mountain bike trail.
Bewza said the suspension bridge and view points will increase tourism to Campbell River as the Englishman River suspension bridge has done for the Nanaimo-Parksville area.
“The view of Elk Falls and the canyon itself is so fantastic that we can expect a large increase in traffic,” Bewza said. “According to BC Parks there are approximately 70,000 day use visitors per year at Elk Falls Park. It is reasonable to expect the number of tourist visits to increase by 50-100 per cent.”
She said an increase of 35,000-70,000 visitors could mean an extra $2.5-$5 million a year injected into the local economy, according to statistics recorded by the Campbell River Visitor Centre.
The entire project is estimated to cost $550,000 with the bridge coming in at $300,000.
The Rotary Club has confirmed it will spend $75,000 and a corporate sponsor has committed to making up $150,000 of the project costs.
Rotary is also hoping for funding from the Island Coastal Economic Trust; $25,000 in in-kind contributions as well as $75,000 from other various contributors.
Rotary submitted its project proposal to BC Parks this month.
The club hopes to obtain grant approval by September; issue request for proposals to the project finalist in October and submit complete plans to BC Parks for final approval this winter.
If all goes according to plan, Rotary expects the project to be completed sometime between May and June of next year, with opening day in either June or July of 2013.