Rick Harry remembers the sometimes treacherous conditions that members of the Squamish Nation had to endure to cross the Sea to Sky Highway in the past.
“It really wasn't safe,” he recalled. “There used to be a pretty steep trail and sometimes we'd even slide down on a toboggan.”
It was through those experiences and Harry's skills as a renowned artist that he was chosen to help design the brand new Path of Stawamus (Shewalh tl'a Sta7mes) overpass, which now connects Totem Hall to Chances Casino across the highway.
“This is an awesome project we have here,” Harry said, to the dozens in attendance at the official unveiling of the overpass on Thursday (Oct. 11). “But it's not just my work. There were so many others behind it.”
Harry said he paid attention to old stories from the past to help design the structure with traditional flair. Sixteen steel hangers are shaped like spears on the overpass, to represent the 16 hereditary chiefs of the Squamish Nation and also to represent the spears that legend says were used to slay Sinulhka, the two-headed serpent.
There are also two steel upright paddles on the western side of the bridge to symbolize peace and respect.
The six-month-long project saw bridge designers Hatch Mott MacDonald, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and members of the Squamish Nation work together to create a structure that works for everyone.
“It's an incredible piece of architecture,” said Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham. “I think it's a fantastic addition to our community and will provide safety and security for our young people who have to cross the highway for school.”
Joan McIntyre, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, noted that the overpass is the final piece of the Sea to Sky Highway upgrade project and agreed with Kirkham that increased safety will be a big benefit.
“Those in the future will now have a safer way to cross and easier access to Stawamus Elementary,” she said. “One of the bigger local issues in Squamish has been east-west connectivity and this overpass addresses that.”
The official unveiling saw a traditional blessing of the structure, speeches from several dignitaries and saw the first children cross the overpass just after 3 p.m.