Nearly four years after the Columbia River wiped out part of Vancouver’s Waterfront Renaissance Trail, the popular pathway has finally been restored.
In the spring of 2011, snowmelt and heavy rains pushed the river level to 17.1 feet, its highest point in 14 years and well beyond the flood stage of 16 feet. That year, the city blocked off two unstable sections of the five-mile trail as soil erosion left pavement crumbling into the water near Tidewater Cove.
For people like Steve and Patty Smith, Vancouver residents who walk the pathway every day, that meant taking a detour along Columbia Way before making it to the end of their route.
But after spending more than $2 million, the city’s work on the two damaged sections is finished, said Loretta Callahan, a spokeswoman for Vancouver’s Public Works Department. On Friday, the city removed the barricades, opening the entire trail to the public once again.
The Smiths have been out every day since enjoying the fresh air and taking in the scenery.
“A lot of people have waited a long time,” Steve Smith said. “We saw the deterioration of the trail. It looks great now.”
Stretching from Esther Short Park in downtown out east to Marine Park, the trail is a frequent haunt for walkers, joggers and bikers. The city estimated that more than 986,000 people used it in 2010.
For the Smiths, the path is a treasure offering quiet views of wildlife. Over the years, they’ve seen eagles and deer, and in broad daylight on Sunday they watched an owl swoop down from a tree to snatch a snake.
“Hopefully, they can maintain (the trail) this time,” Smith said. “I have to assume that it is built to last forever.”
There was no easy way to repair the damage, Callahan said. In the wake of the flooding, the city faced a complex mix of regulations as the trail’s foundation continued to slip away from underneath the two deteriorating sections, which were built in 1999.
Environmental permitting requirements barred construction crews from moving their equipment into the river as they worked on the project. The restriction left crews waiting for water levels to drop each year; they then had to work fast before the river rose again. With low water levels in the past year, the crews were able to do more than originally planned.
Work began in September 2013 on the first portion, near the Tidewater Jetty. The project wrapped up by the end of that year at a cost of about $396,000 to repair about 70 feet of the riverbank and 150 feet of the path. Crews also reinforced another 200 feet of trail along the edge of the river to prevent future collapses.
Repairs on the more heavily damaged portion in front of the Tidewater Cove condominiums cost the city about $1.67 million. That work began last year in August, and it included the replacement of roughly 700 feet of the path’s surface.
In all, more than 16,000 tons of rock and 2,500 plants were added to help stabilize the land beneath the trail.