Building With Wood: Sooke's Accessibility Ramp/Marine Boardwalk

It is hardly surprising that Sooke should sport the world's longest wooden access ramp. This is the land of big trees after all, and trees mean wood, one of the most versatile building materials on the planet. Not only versatile, but if used properly, renewable as well.

Ed MacGregor Park, near the centre of town, provides access to the impressive wooden structures known as the Accessible Walkway and Marine Boardwalk. This combination makes the park, trees, waterfront, and views over the Juan de Fuca available to all. These impressive wood structures continue a long-standing tradition of working with wood on the coast.

The Coast Salish, this area's original inhabitants, have been using Western red cedar extensively for thousands of years. Items made from wood include clothing, totem poles, art, and large structures. Huge longhouses of cedar split plank accommodate up to 50 people. Ocean-going canoes made from massive whole cedar logs plied the waters from Alaska to California.

European settlers have also used the abundant wood resources of Vancouver Island to build impressive structures including houses, piers, and boardwalks all over the world. The piers of San Francisco were built with wood from Vancouver Island. Some of the largest wooden rail trestles in the world, such as the Kinsol Trestle, which will soon undergo refurbishment, is one such structure. This massive engineering feat near Duncan was completed in 1920 using massive Douglas fir beams.

Most trails on the coast use wooden structures to aid hikers in their passage through the rain forest. A hiker is very likely to be thankful for the careful work of trail builders and wood workers that construct bridges, boardwalks and ladder systems in order to cross the rugged terrain.

Wood is an amazing material, and I am continually surprised and delighted by the many things people have done with it. Pacific coast builders and artists have continued a unique wood-centered culture. I am not sure if the Ed MacGregor Accessible Walkway is the longest such ramp in the world, but it is an impressive engineering feat.

Try the zig zag switchbacks some time, then walk the 1000m Marine Boardwalk. At the other end of the boardwalk you will find a couple of sets of wooden stairs leading up to Murray Road. If you walk Murray back up to Sooke Road you can then hang a left and complete the loop at the Ed MacGregor Park parking lot. Don't forget to enjoy the trees along the way... and perhaps thank them.

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