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Remembering lives lost

Heidi VanLith Special to The Chief The Sea to Sky Highway is infamous for its incredible beauty and equally for its deadly accidents.

Heidi VanLith

Special to The Chief

The Sea to Sky Highway is infamous for its incredible beauty and equally for its deadly accidents.

According to Insurance Corporation of British Columbia's (ICBC) statistics, more than 2,500 accidents have occurred from 2000 to 2004 alone.

Inspired by the unfortunate death of a dear friend, artist Ice Bear and a dedicated group of individuals have taken it upon themselves to recognize these tragedies by creating the Sea to Sky Memorial Project and a giant bronze Thunderbird in honor of the lives lost along the highway.

"We're hoping that the presence of this huge Thunderbird will remind stupid drivers, for one moment, that accidents happen often on this road and that maybe they should slow down," said Charronne Douglas of Ice Bear Studios in Cowichan.

The 18-foot contemporary sculpture of an eagle's head and wings, one wing pointed to the sky the other outstretched offering shelter and protection to all those within its embrace, will be integrated into the highway improvement plans somewhere between Britannia Beach and Whistler. A location has yet to be determined.

"We want the sculpture set in a healing garden and within the arms or somewhere around the perimeter of the Thunderbird will be a place for the names of those whose lives have been claimed by this stretch of road," said Douglas.

Healing herbs like sage and lavender and indigenous plants such as cedar will be installed amongst the gardens to create a spiritual ground for friends, family, and travelers to pay tribute to those being remembered.

The larger-than-life artwork, Animikii, the Ojibway name for Thunderbird, will be cast in a foundry in China then shipped in sections to the West Coast where it will be assembled and finished.

Douglas hopes to fly Animikii over the Howe Sound by helicopter before installing it in its final resting place some time in late 2007 or early 2008. "It would be amazing to fly it in so the Thunderbird's spirit can see the road it is protecting," said Douglas.

The project will cost approximately $125,000 and is reliant on individual and corporate donations.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Thunderbird Press, Interglobe Investigation Services Inc., BC Museum of Mining, seatoskycountry.net, Crofton Technologies, Squamish Savings and Credit Union, and Minter Gardens are sponsoring the project.Ice Bear is an Ojibway sculptor, painter, and muralist who has lived and worked on the West Coast for the past 25 years.

Donations are being accepted at the Squamish Credit Union for the Sea-to-Sky Memorial Society. For more information visit www.seatoskycountry.net/animikii, email memorial@seatoskycountry.net, or call Ice Bear Studios at 250-246-5356.