View from the Treetops: Partnership pays off for Malahat Nation

Vancouver Island’s latest tourist attraction is a peaceful and breathtaking — potentially adrenaline-
fuelled — experience born from a partnership between the Malahat Nation and the Malahat Skywalk Corp.

Interior of Malahat Skywalk
The Malahat Skywalk walkway spirals up to an observation deck 250-metres above the Salish Sea and affords views of Finlayson Arm, the Olympic Mountains, the Gulf Islands and Mount Baker. The adventurous can ride the slide down to the base or climb on the adventure net suspended across the middle of the tower. Photo: Jeffrey Bosdet.

The Malahat Skywalk, a 600-metre elevated boardwalk and spiral tower overlooking the Salish Sea, opened in July 2021. The $17-million project, which began construction in January of 2020, is located on the traditional lands of the Malahat Nation.

“They’ve honoured us with the option to use this land for sharing this experience,” says general manager Ken Bailey. “We are economic and cultural partners. We entered into an agreement with Malahat Nation that is both commercial and cultural. The agreement addresses quite a few elements like job training, scholarships and job creation.”

The experience begins at the Welcome Centre, which houses a café and retail store showcasing local artisans. Non-ticket holders can enjoy the Gathering Place, a peaceful forest clearing with giant Douglas fir cookie seats and a natural tree trunk play structure.

“Elders talked about how historically this area would be where different Nations would stop to rest and gather,” says Bailey, who expects it will become a popular rest stop for families.

The property was a former logging site, and the crew has worked to restore what they can — spreading slash piles and pulling Scotch broom — while taking advantage of what was left behind. The site where the tower stands was already cleared as a turnaround for trucks.

Beyond the Gathering Place, the 20-metre high walkway curves through arbutus and Douglas fir and is decorated with driftwood carvings and educational panels. Their role is twofold, says Bailey: they educate visitors but also encourage them to slow down.

“We want them to stop and have a reason to look out, so they don’t miss why they came to see everything.

“Our mission is to make it easier for people to connect with nature in a non-intrusive [way],” says Bailey.

The entire experience is wheelchair and stroller accessible, which makes the wooden structures themselves even more impressive.

“If you build a 600-metre-long walkway, 60 feet off the ground with a five per cent grade — your precision has to be perfect.”

The walkway spirals up to an observation deck 250-metres above the Salish Sea and affords views of Finlayson Arm, the Olympic Mountains, the Gulf Islands and Mount Baker. The adventurous can ride the slide down to the base or climb on the adventure net suspended across the middle of the tower.

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