It is gratifying to see that the Castlegar Friends of Parks and Trails Society is finally committing to repair the Waldie boardwalks. The delaying tactics employed by the society to ‘study the problem’ have aggravated what would have been a relatively easy fix.
I built the boardwalks to handle Columbia River flows of up to 60,000 cfs (for the Low Water Boardwalk) and up to 85,000 cfs (for the High Water Boardwalk). That means the walkways were passable up to those water levels. The guide posts were designed to retain them in place to 95,000 cfs; flows higher than that required an extension of the posts, which could easily have been done with a boat (as I had to do with the footbridge in 1996). The 2012 flows peaked at a little over 110,000 cfs at Waldie, and consequently the walkways floated off the top of the guidance system.
It would have been an easy matter to re-secure the boardwalks once the water started to recede. The sections are exceedingly heavy and can only be floated back into position. It is doubtful the water will ever be high enough again to repair the High Water Boardwalk by that method, and some sections may need to be completely dismantled and rebuilt.
The Low Water Boardwalk is much easier to repair once the sections are separated and floated back into position. As there has been talk of abandoning this boardwalk, I feel I must present here a case for its retention. I designed it to discourage pedestrian traffic from using the ecologically-sensitive beaches, and to offer to the trail user the most attractive passage through the Waldie Wetland. That boardwalk enabled Ducks Unlimited to contribute to the purchase of Waldie Island as a heron reserve. The organization cannot fund land acquisition per se, but could pay for wetland enhancement work that my efforts there represented. Furthermore, the Waldie boardwalks reflect a tremendous outlay of donated materials and volunteer time, so that the actual financial cost for their construction was only about $2,000. Thus the legacy of the boardwalks runs a little deeper than may be apparent.
The footbridge would have been lost by the delaying tactics had not some of the original non-society volunteers captured it as it was being swept away by the recent high water in January, floated it over the bridge piers, and re-attached it to the guide posts. We learned a long time ago to react to circumstances as they develop, and to take advantage of opportunities as they are presented.
I do hope that the reference to further minimizing environmental impact implies that the trail society will finally attempt to deal with the dog issue on Waldie Island Trail so as to come into agreement with the Nature Trust of BC management plant for the site, and the recommendations presented by Marlene Machmer to the society two years ago.
I do believe the Waldie Island Trail is the most valuable trail in the Castlegar vicinity, not because of its proximity to the city, but rather by virtue of its historical connections and its unique ecological setting. I would be happy to contribute my ideas to guide the repair process.