Work to install handrails along the length of the Ogden Point breakwater begins this week and is expected to last close to eight weeks.
During installation of the aluminum and stainless-steel railing, the public will have no access to the popular walkway along the upper level of the breakwater.
“We are hoping to have this complete by late March,” said Curtis Grad, president and chief executive officer of the non-profit Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.
Access to the lower level will be restricted in stages, with the south side expected to be open first to anglers and other users prior to the top level, Grad said Monday.
The harbour authority is paying for the project, anticipated to cost $400,000 to $500,000.
The idea of installing handrails on the 1916 breakwater has horrified some users and been applauded by others.
Opponents say railings are unnecessary and will ruin the view and feeling of freedom people experience when walking along the 700-metre breakwater, which is three metres wide.
They argue it’s unnecessary to put up costly railings when few accidents have taken place there over the years.
But railing supporters want the added security and safety handrails will provide. Advocates for citizens with disabilities say their members have not been able to go onto the breakwater.
Grad said the harbour authority had no choice but to install handrailings if it wanted to keep access open to the public. Both Labour Canada and the authority’s insurer insisted on railings.
“The world has changed. The tolerance to risk is very different than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Public safety and access for people with mobility issues were key factors, he said.
The railing was designed to allow someone using a wheelchair to have a clear view of the water, Grad said.
The structure has been built in modules in the warehouse at Odgen Point. That means it will be simple to replace one portion of the railing if necessary.
The main contractor for the work is Zapco Welding and Fabricating of Victoria.
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