PEI

Careful construction: Replacing Greenwich's floating boardwalk

Greenwich's much-photographed floating boardwalk is being replaced and Parks Canada is taking dozens of precautions to make sure the construction process doesn't harm the environmentally-sensitive area.

'This gets an awful lot of wind, an awful lot of salt spray'

A Parks Canada crew starts to dismantle the old boardwalk so it can be replaced. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The floating boardwalk in Greenwich in the P.E.I. National Park is being replaced and Parks Canada is taking dozens of precautions to make sure the construction process doesn't harm the environmentally-sensitive area.

Parks employees are also working hard to make sure the new $1.2 million boardwalk looks as similar as possible to the much-photographed current structure.

One of the many photos Parks Canada has used over the years to promote the floating boardwalk at Greenwich. (Parks Canada)

"It's iconic from the promotional perspective for Parks Canada and for the province," said Tara McNally MacPhee, visitor experience manager for P.E.I. National Park.

"So we wanted to make sure that we were preserving the integrity of the vista itself."

'It's just breath-taking'

More than 45,000 visitors travel to Greenwich annually, and most hike the 2.5 kilometre Greenwich Dunes trail, which includes 700 metre floating boardwalk. 

"When you walk out onto the boardwalk, the parabolic dune system out there is just revealed, as you make your way across the pond," explained McNally MacPhee. "It's just breath-taking."

The current boardwalk was built in the late 90s, using mainly white cedar or eastern cedar, because pressure-treated lumber at the time was seen as inappropriate for the nature area. 

The Parks Canada crew has strict rules about what kind of tools it can use on site here in Greenwich so the new wood will be cut and treated at the workshop in Dalvay. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Fifteen years since Greenwich officially opened, the boardwalk is showing wear and tear. The plan is that with different construction materials, the new structure will last up to 50 years.

Not your backyard deck

"This is not like a backyard deck where you get a little bit of wind, this gets an awful lot of wind, an awful lot of salt spray," explained Greg Shaw, project manager with Parks Canada.

There are also a few extra challenges to repairing the Greenwich boardwalk, including no electricity.

"It's not the type of place back here where we can run electricity or even to get a truck to come back here," said Shaw, who even explored the option of using a helicopter to carry materials in and out of the site.

The old boardwalk was made primarily of white cedar and has been battered by wind and salt spray since it was built in the late 90s. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Instead, Parks Canada employees are using a combination of ATVs and four-wheelers on land, and then wooden wagons to haul boards across the boardwalk itself.

Using 'exceptional caution'

The crew is doing as much of the pre-fabrication work at the Parks Canada workshop in Dalvay. They are using pressure-treated lumber this time around, but not sawing or treating it in the park.

"We don't want to cut any wood on site, we'd have to collect all of the sawdust and we don't want the sawdust floating out into the pond," explained Shaw.

Parks Canada project manager Greg Shaw shows one of the many boards on the current boardwalk that are showing signs of years of wear and tear. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

When the crew is using gas-powered tools, there is no re-fuelling over the water and they have to use oil for their chainsaws that is environmentally-friendly.

"Our people are very aware of working in environmental conditions and areas like this," said Shaw.

Work didn't start until October to cause as little disruption as possible for visitors, but the trail system is now closed. If all goes well, Shaw hopes the crew will have the boardwalk rebuilt by the end of December.

"It's great to see it started, we just hope we get the weather to get everything finished up here."

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