Barry Fan and Jayson Walker Awarded ACEC Deputy Minister’s Consulting Engineers Award
Bridging the Stakeholder Gaps
When Barry Fan and Jayson Walker began work on the Cultus Lake Trail Improvement Project in early 2016, they likely didn’t imagine that two years later they would be celebrating a nomination for the Deputy Minister’s Consulting Engineers Award recognizing Excellence in Alternate Transportation. For them, the project was about working with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (BCMOTI) to study the feasibility of creating a 6.7-km continuous trail along the east shores of Cultus Lake in Chilliwack, BC.
The Cultus Lake Trail Improvement Project all began with the grassroots Lakeside Trail Society (LTS) – a group of locals who came together to push for a connection between the north and south areas along Cultus Lake. Formed in 2015, the LTS’s visions is to “design and build a scenic walking trail
around Cultus Lake for the pleasure of residents and visitors alike.” However, because the land along the proposed trail is governed by the BCMOT, BC Parks and the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), all the groups have a stake in how the land is used, and therefore all had to be a part of the feasibility of actualizing the trail.
It was just that – bringing all the differing groups together – that helped this project stand out and be recognized by the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of BC (ACEC BC) and be nominated for this award.
“The level of stakeholder engagement was one of the highlights we put forward for this project,” explains Fan. “Working with BCMOT, BC Parks, FVRD and the LTS, we needed to hold a number of workshops to navigate through the conceptual design and feasibility stages. Getting everyone in the same room to discuss it was really helpful.”
He notes that during the kick-off meeting, one of the first steps they took was to get all the different groups to share their perspectives to better understand each other. The LTS was hoping to create a legacy project that connects the community, and having them listen to constraints BCMOT and BC Parks needed to navigate gave all parties a greater sense of what was and was not feasible. This included going to a site walk as a group to see both the visions and the challenges in real life. “Seeing what they had envisioned in the actual environment and getting everyone to talk about it was a great asset.”
As a part of the feasibility study, the topography and conditions of the existing landscape was taken into account, and while the existing challenges haven’t negated the possibility of a connecting trail, they do create budgetary constraints. Where there is space available, preferred options are to construct separated pathways, particularly along the Columbia Valley Road, the main connection between the North and South beaches. However, sections of the road have so little land to work with, abutting the mountain to one side and the water’s edges to the other, that a boardwalk will need to be constructed near or on top of the water.
Of course, this also means taking into account the disruption to local flora and fauna. Urban Systems worked with Hatfield Consulting to review the local plants and animals, assessing what kinds of impacts the trail system would have, and how to ensure minimal disturbance to the local wildlife, including fish and other water-based life.
Fan notes that with the feasibility study complete, they have left the door open with BCMOT to work on the design and construction phases when the project moves forward, particularly along some of the more challenging areas of Columbia Valley Road. In the meantime, as a part of planned utility works, sections of the trail along Lindell Road have already been constructed, and the connecting of the community begun.
On January 30th, Fan and Walker proudly received the Deputy Ministers Award at the ACEC BC Transportation Conference in Vancouver. “It’s a great example of our relationships with our clients and our work with stakeholder engagement to help bridge conversations,” acknowledges Fan. “To be recognized for it at this level is pretty special.”