Spectacular sunshine plus superb seawalk scenery equalled a sensational summertime celebration in Crofton last Wednesday.
Members of the community, business people and others from around the Cowichan Valley and beyond who love the seawalk turned out for a special ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Crofton Seawalk’s Phase 1 opening.
It was an especially proud moment for the Crofton Community Centre Society and Municipality of North Cowichan staff past and present whose joint project is a model for other communities to follow.
There was entertainment from John Booth’s Beatlemania Unplugged group to mark the occasion as well as a celebration cake dished out by some prominent Crofton citizens, children’s games, the presence of the Crofton Fire Department and food trucks on scene to feed the hungry mob.
And, of course, there were speeches from major proponents in the venture to provide background information and to acknowledge the countless people who had a hand in taking the seawalk from the concept stage to reality.
“I have to acknowledge all who have come before me and accomplished so much in this little town,” said current Crofton Community Centre Society president Tracey Donnelly.
She cited the numerous projects within the community besides the seawalk such as the Crofton pool and the skateboard park that the society has undertaken and helped bring to fruition.
“The Municipality of North Cowichan then takes over from us and runs and maintains our projects,” Donnelly added.
The society also organizes numerous special events.
“Some are to raise money for our hall, some were just so we could get out together and have some fun,” said Donnelly.
The Crofton Seniors Centre, Crofton Art Group and Crofton Old School Museum also played a part in the activities that included displays recounting the history of the seawalk that many find hard to believe has already spanned two decades.
“Some of you would consider this your baby and rightly so, you’ve put so much into it,” said Donnelly.
The seawalk is lovingly referred to as the Jewel of Crofton.
“Crofton is definitely a special part of North Cowichan and we’re glad to be here, celebrating with the community,” said outgoing mayor Al Siebring, who’s leaving his post as of the next municipal elections in October.
For the time being, Siebring is staying in Crofton – in a legal suite, no less, he pointed out – before retiring to Alberta.
Siebring indicated he continually hears complimentary feedback about the seawalk, including from a friend from New Westminster who recently said it’s better than the New Westminster Quay.
“That’s the impression this facility gives,” he said.
Dan Robin, the seawalk coordinator for the Crofton Community Centre Society, noted the ceremony coincides with the 70th year of service for the volunteer organization.
“Without them, none of this would have been a reality,” he said.
It was also mentioned that famed Canadian painter E.J. Hughes did 11 paintings within the community and even made a contribution to the seawalk when he was still alive.
“There’s a fellow who just walked by and gave $5,000,” added Robin.
That’s the kind of support the seawalk has generated from the beginning and the payback is enormous.
Robin acknowledged the support from the municipal staff of the day for going above and beyond to make the project happen – like parks and recreation director Ernie Mansueti, who was at the ceremony, and former mayor Rex Hollett, who’s now deceased.
“They will forever be remembered for the incredible contribution they made,” said Robin.
Penelakut Tribe’s Kellie Aleck and her sister Blanche James were invited to the ceremony and performed a portion of their Tribal Journeys song.
“We come here because it’s a beautiful community and a lot of very friendly people and a lot of nice benches to enjoy the seawalk,” said Aleck.
She extended a return invite to everyone for the Penelakut Tribe’s March for the Children on Aug. 1 in Chemainus.
The seawalk also received a significant boost in the early stages from corporate interests, like the Crofton pulp mill that was under NorskeSkog ownership at the time.
General manager Alan Scalet was on hand to represent the Catalyst Paper Excellence mill that makes it a priority to be a good community partner. “Our mill’s success and longevity is due to the people,” he said.
“Notable events like this bring community members together in a special way. (The seawalk) is a centrepiece that unifies who we are.”