Malahat Skywalk rises over the treetops, hopes to welcome visitors next year

The tops of tall Douglas fir columns are rising above the trees where the new Malahat Skywalk — now at half its eventual 40.5 -metre height — is under construction near Bamberton.

Pandemic-depending, the region’s newest tourist attraction is expected to take in its first visitor next year, said Ken Bailey, Skywalk general manager.

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Plans call for the attraction to open in late spring to early summer, he said Friday, although that depends on what happens with COVID-19, and how well construction goes through the winter.

When it’s finished, the Skywalk’s viewing platform will be 32 metres high, he said. Finished columns for the tower that can be seen from the Trans-Canada Highway are approximately 20 metres tall.

Admission prices have yet to be finalized, Bailey said, but the plan is to offer the local community affordable options, such as multi-use passes.

As far as projecting attendance, “It’s difficult to say right now with COVID, but certainly we expect to see thousands of people in a day through the summer period in the high season.”

Malahat Skywalk Corp., made up of Canadian investors, is developing the Bamberton property and working in collaboration with the Malahat First Nation.

First Nation officials have said that the project includes training for band members interested in working at the attraction.

The pandemic has not affected the construction timeline, Bailey said. Safety protocols are in place on the site, where people are not working in close quarters and are always outdoors.

Activity on the site began in January, with work such as geo-technical studies and ground stabilization. An entry road, parking lot and welcome building have been built.

Kinsol Timber of Mill Bay, which is building the Skywalk, specializes in heavy timber, Bailey said. The tower, welcome centre and its walkway all include some elements of heavy timber.

Large columns of Douglas fir have been created using pieces that were glued together. Cladding will be installed on the outside of the columns to protect the wood.

More than 400,000 pounds of steel is being used in the tower construction, , which includes metal bracing that holds everything together and metal joints on the walkway, Bailey said.

“I hope Vancouver Island welcomes the fact that this is such a unique experience. This is not an experience you are going to find in very many places in the world and I hope they are proud of that.”

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