The Week — Dec. 20: Call the guards to Ogden Point

Call the guards to Ogden Point, Ghosts of Christmas Past and Santa fills every stocking

The Odgen Point breakwater will be receiving handrails (see this artistic render) from the GVHA for Christmas this year, in a “done deal” that will see installation close the 800-metre structure from January to March.

Call the guards to Ogden Point

For almost 100 years,  Victorians and visitors have been walking 800 metres out into Victoria’s harbour, with only a cement platform at their feet and the breeze as their barrier. Now, for the first time since its completion in 1916, the Ogden Point breakwater will be strapped with guardrails.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) has announced that handrails will be installed along the Victoria landmark “to make the breakwater more accessible and enhance safety.”

“The world has changed a lot from 100 years ago, and our sense of safety and understandings of that are different from what they used to be,” says Curtis Grad, GVHA president and CEO. “This was something that, for myself as chief executive officer, I had to do.”

Grad says the decision came when a review showed the current structure would not match the Canada Labour Code, which requires fall protection for GVHA workers and contractors maintaining the breakwater.

“The option was either install guardrails or close down the breakwater, and the latter was not an option,” Grad says.

The new post-and-cable design handrails are estimated to cost $400,000 to $500,000 for installation and an annual $10,000 to $20,000 for maintenance, which the GVHA is funding through its internal capital reserves. The rails will meet the labour code and will also allow the breakwater to open for those in wheelchairs and scooters to freely access its full length. Grad believes it will also provide peace of mind for families with small children, the elderly and those with balance/vertigo conditions walking on the breakwater, or those pausing to take in the view.

“Retaining the unique experience of the breakwater was an important consideration in designing this safety upgrade,” Grad says. “In selecting a handrail design, GVHA was very conscious of preserving the spectacular views while providing the necessary protection for the public and our maintenance team.”

Installation of the guardrails will begin in January, and will see the breakwater closed for construction until its completion, estimated around March. The project also includes a new set of stairs by the lighthouse and upgrades to the entrance. Access to the fishing area will not be affected, and Grad says the GVHA spent time consulting with First Nations advisors, who impressed the importance of fishing off the breakwater for cultural traditions. Grad says he is expecting some backlash from the community on the decision, but adds that while he is not aware of any accidents or deaths off the breakwater, the accountability lands at the feet of the GVHA.

“Doing the right thing is not always the popular thing, but it’s still the right thing to do as a responsible property owner,” says Grad. “Ten years from now, people will say, ‘Can you believe they ever didn’t have handrails here?’”

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Twinkles on the tree will be more symbolic on Friday, Dec. 21, as the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness will host a candlelight vigil to remember those we lost in 2012.

All are invited to the annual National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day to remember Victorians experiencing homelessness who died this year. Cities across North America will host similar vigils on the first day of winter and the longest night of the year.

In Victoria, the event is a venue for public reflections on recent deaths and how to address the causes and consequences.

Join the remembrance Friday, 4:30-5:30pm at  the Whale Wall Park (Yates and Wharf).

Santa fills every stocking

Santa will come again this year to those living in Pacifica Housing’s four supported housing complexes, as each individual will receive a stocking, thanks to the Extreme Outreach Society’s Warm-A-Soul program.

This is the second year in a row Pacifica Housing tenants will benefit from the program, which sees nearly 1,000 stockings collected and delivered to those in need each Christmas.

“The holidays are a particularly challenging time for a lot of the individuals living in our supported housing as many are estranged from their families,” said Karyn French, executive director of Pacifica Housing. “The stockings will mean a great deal.”

To help, learn more at extremeoutreach.com. M

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