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Murals put finishing touch on South Slocan Overhead highway project

The eye-catching entrance to the new pedestrian/cycling tunnel showcases an amazing mural coordinated by local artist (see below) Peter Vogelaar. There is also a picnic table with a view of Kootenay River Dams near Mile Zero entrance. — The Nelson Daily photos

Not only has the recently completed South Slocan Overhead highway construction project removed many dangers away from driving Highway 3A/6 for daily commuters near Slocan Village Road, but the new pedestrian/cycling tunnel is now more eye-catching than ever thanks to a mural project coordinated by local artist Peter Vogelaar.

The aging structure, built in the early 1960s west of Nelson, was replaced with road fill for improved safety, efficiency and better trail access for users of the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail, which runs under the road.

“I think the collaboration between all the partners involved in the project was an amazing thing that would be in my top five, but the enhanced safety of the highway corridor is always our goal at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure,” said Robbie Kalabis, project manager for the MOTI.

Helene Dostaler, Chair of Slocan Valley Trails Heritage Society, couldn’t agree more.

“(Murals) have added a little fun piece and has got people excited again,” Dostaler explained. “It’s been very, very positive not only for the society but for the whole community as well.”

“It’s also getting a lot of interest from new people discovering the tunnel,” Dostaler added. “People from Nelson to Castlegar to Bonnington are all discovering the tunnel and trails.”

The recent laying of pavement along with the opening of thenew pedestrian and cycling tunnel, marks the completion of the South Slocan Overhead project.

The murals, funded by Slocan Valley Community Arts Council, MOTI and YRB, were an afterthought that definitely has brought life to the tunnel and Mile Zero of the Slocan Valley Trails.

Stakeholders were worried some members of the public would scar the tunnel walls with inappropriate graffiti. So, the call went out to local artist Peter Vogelaar to draft up the new design for tunnel walls.

“(Peter Vogelaar) is the one drafting up the design, which is a huge undertaking for just one person,” said Dostaler, giving kudos to Kalabis, who coordinated the murals with the Slocan Valley Arts Society. “That’s when our society stepped in with lots of volunteers . . . I’d say up to 50 people who came by did little, or a lot, under the supervision of Peter Vogelaar.”

Dostaler said the mural project took more than two months to complete. Now, with the four kilometers of paved trail — from the tunnel project to Frog Peake Café — the 52 kilomters of trails are starting to take shape.

“The refurbished trails have become a magnet for young families, who now come out and because it’s so safe for kids learning to bike or for kids biking with parents or roller blading on the paved trails,” Dostaler said.

“The paved trails also make it accessible for seniors to walk. And it’s been a nice addition to the rest of the rail trails which is more rustic.”

Dostaler said the Slocan Valley Rail Trails Society, which is in the process of beginning another major project near the Village of Slocan, is a non-profit organization that maintains trails during the summer and winter, the latter laying down cross country ski trails.

The society operates by donations and grants.

If anyone would like to volunteer or donate to the upkeep of the trails, go to the SVRTS website or its Facebook Page.

The original two-lane South Slocan Bridge, which was built in 1962, was dismantled and replaced with a new two-lane rock fill, and a pedestrian and cycling tunnel.

Quick Facts:

  • The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development cost-shared on the pedestrian tunnel and the trailhead construction, which includes a paved parking lot, access trails, picnic tables, kiosk and bike racks.
  • The Regional District of Central Kootenay, on behalf of the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society, cost-shared on the pedestrian tunnel and asphalt paving of four kilometres of the southern rail trail, with a grant from the ministry's BikeBC program.
  • The paved rail trail from South Slocan to Pass Creek Road is an enhancement to multi-modal transportation in the area, connecting the community to local schools, the recently rebuilt Crescent Beach Regional Park and the Great Trail.