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Delta Nature Reserve boardwalk repairs an issue as property transfer with Metro Vancouver drags on

Delta took over care of the trail in April after decades of work by Burns Bog Conservation Society
The Burns Bog Conservation Society had been responsible for maintaining the nearly five-kilometres of boardwalk in the Delta Nature Reserve for more than two decades, but that came to an end in April. (Grace Kennedy photo)

A pending transfer of the Delta Nature Reserve is keeping boardwalk maintenance in a state of limbo, as the Burns Bog Conservation Society remains unable to repair the pathway and some society members feel the Corporation of Delta isn’t doing enough to keep up.

Several park users have taken to social media in recent months to complain about the state of the boardwalks, saying broken boards and collapsed sections have made it unsafe for pedestrian use and impassable for bicycles, strollers and wheelchairs.

In February of this year, the Burns Bog Conservation Society received a letter from the Corporation of Delta indicating that it “can no longer continue the informal arrangement of using volunteer maintenance” to support the five-kilometre trail that loops through the reserve.

The boardwalk was built by the society in the early 1990s and has been expanded and maintained by the group ever since, with volunteer coordinator Al Dinis going out once or twice a week to repair broken boards. In April, the society had to desist their maintenance duties.

“I think they’ve done a wonderful job over the years,” said Ken Kuntz, Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture. “The volunteerism has been wonderful. It’s just becoming a large asset for a group of volunteers to handle.”

Dinis doesn’t agree.

“If we built it … how could it be too much work for a volunteer organization?” Dinis asked.

Since April, the Corporation has been working to maintain the boardwalk, doing weekly inspections and repairs. But society members don’t think it’s been keeping up.

Recently, Dinis was away from Delta for two months. “I came back and said, ‘Woah, this is a disaster, a war zone’,” he said.

On one walk, he counted 82 broken boards in the nature reserve. According to Society education coordinator Hillary Rowe, the society received its first ever complaint about the state of the boardwalk on social media.

Kuntz said he had seen some comments on social media about the state of the boardwalk, but attributed those to its age.

“There’s undoubtedly some catch up to do” on the boardwalk, he said. “The outer loop particularly is decades old and there are some boards that will continue to break. Almost every week we find some boards that are broken and need replacement. And we’re on it. We’re doing it.”

Of course, Delta’s maintenance regime is only temporary. Metro Vancouver will be taking over maintenance of the boardwalk once the property transfer (which will give Delta and Metro Vancouver joint ownership of the land) is complete.

But that won’t happen until the highway improvements at the intersection of Highway 91, Highway 17 and the Highway 91 Connector are finalized.

Announced in March 2017, the road improvements will change some of the property boundaries of the Delta Nature Reserve. Delta and Metro Vancouver can’t finalize their operating agreements and property transfer until the official boundaries are known.

“So we don’t want to execute these agreements until we know what those property lines are going to look like,” Kuntz said. “They’re hopefully only a few months away, and then we’ll have that resolved.”

Burns Bog Conservation Society president Eliza Olson will be happy when that time finally comes.

“I’m looking forward to working with them (Metro Vancouver), because they have a long history of working with non-profits,” she said. “And they’ve treated us since 2004 as more or less their orphan organization.”

Rowe agrees.

“For me, personally, what I would like to see is just a safe space for community members,” Rowe said. “If Metro Vancouver can supply that, I would love for the Society to be involved in it. But at the end of the day, if there’s a safe space, that’s all that matters to me.”