Reducing the impact of construction in Kenna Cartwright Park

A view of Kamloops from Kenna Cartwright park
/ Community

Kenna Cartwright Park is the largest municipal park in British Columbia and arguably, the “crown jewel” of all the parks in the City of Kamloops. Before construction for the Inland Gas Upgrades (IGU) project got underway in the park this year, we made plans to minimize the impact of our work to keep trail users and workers safe and keep the trails as accessible as possible for everyone. 

Project communication and outreach

Matt Mason wearing a FortisBC hard hat, safety vest and work gloves smiles at something beyond the camera
Matt Mason, Community & Indigenous Relations Manager, FortisBC

With more than 40 kilometres of gentle nature trailswinding their way through 800 hectares of forest offering panoramic views of the city, Thompson Valley and Kamloops Lake, it’s not surprising that Kenna Cartwright Park is a popular hiking and cycling destination and venue for a number of annual events. 

Given the park’s popularity, our community relations team knew they needed to engage with stakeholders—including municipalities, regional districts, First Nations and community organizations—well in advance of construction. Community engagement began in 2017, four years before the work planned for Kamloops was set to begin, and continued throughout construction.

Immediately prior to construction, the team went door-to-door in the neighbourhood closest to the worksite, hand-delivering letters describing where construction would take place and the purpose behind it. Matt Mason, a community and Indigenous relations manager with FortisBC says, “We take a ‘no surprises’ approach when it comes to our projects. We want everyone to feel informed and have an opportunity to share their ideas or concerns with us.”

To reach the wider park-using community in the Kamloops region, we conducted a targeted communication campaign. Print, radio and social media ads directed people to our IGU project page where they could learn more, see a map of the proposed work locations and plan their trip to the park ahead of time. 

Matt explains, “Taking a multi-channel approach for project work notifications is important because we know that everyone accesses information in different ways. When we cover all our communication bases, we increase the reach of our message and inform a wider audience.”

Supporting park-users during construction

Although many trails remained open during construction, some temporary trail closures were necessary to complete our work safely. In order to minimize the impact of the trail closures, our project team came up with some ideas to help lessen the inconvenience. 

“The lady in blue”

Vi Antione stands in front of a trail map at Kenna Cartwright park
Vi Antoine, Environmental Monitor, FortisBC

Vi Antoine was the environmental monitor for the IGU project work in Kamloops. During construction in Kenna Cartwright Park, her work included keeping a close eye on birds and other wildlife, and their habitat, to ensure their safety. 

“In my environmental monitoring role, I traveled by foot through the park along the length of the construction right of way,” says Vi. “My hikes extended to up to 100 metres on either side of the right of way, so I became very familiar with park trails. Helping visitors navigate around the construction in the park became a natural extension of my role.”

Once our construction contractor, Surerus understood that the proposed work in the park would require crossing a number of trails that would need to be diverted and/or closed for the safety of park visitors, they recommended installing a trail monitor in the park. The role would involve answering questions, giving directions and occasionally guiding trail users personally who were uncertain of the detours around construction. Vi’s familiarity with the trails and ongoing daily interaction with trail users made her the obvious choice for the task.

Two workers walk down a trail along a power line right of way in Kenna Cartwright Park
The IGU project’s construction right of way runs along an existing utility corridor in Kenna Cartwright Park.

Vi earned the nickname “lady in blue” due to her colourful, predominantly blue, uniform. “When crews needed to guide visitors toward me to get help with directions or information they just said to look for ‘the lady in blue’ further down the trail,” she jokes. The inquiries and comments she received weren’t only about the trails. Vi also received positive feedback about the crew and the cleanliness of the worksite and questions related to our work in the park. “The questions about our work gave me the opportunity to explain the importance of the gas line upgrade and why we were working in the park during the summer,” she says.

Our work in the park involved replacing a gas line that was reaching the end of its useful life, which was necessary to ensure the continued safe and reliable supply of energy to Kamloops residents. We were working in the park because that’s where the existing utility corridor that housed the gas line is located.

Vi noted that one of her favourite things about being an environmental/trail monitor in the park was the location of her office—in the park’s gazebo. “Having my ‘office’ located in such a serene and beautiful environment, and sharing it with a family of mule deer that would stop by, has been one of the greatest perks of the job. I’ve also enjoyed talking to visitors who took the time to share stories about the park, and express their appreciation for the construction signage, the friendliness of our crew and the fact that we were open to sharing details about our work.”

Helping with special events

Vi Antione smiles at the camera while standing on a right of way trail in Kenna Cartwright Park
Crew members dressed in colourful safety gear helped guide race participants around construction at a recent event in Kenna Cartwright Park. 

When we learn about an event that’s slated to take place near our worksites, we proceed with optimism that we’ll be able to work with event coordinators to find a way for their event to proceed if our schedule allows. When event organizers reach out to us well in advance of their event, it gives us time to find a solution that will allow the event to continue safely. 

That was the outcome for a mountain bike race scheduled to take place in Kenna Cartwright Park over two days in late August, as part of the Canada 55+ Games.  “Our number one goal is to maintain the safety of the public and our crew,” says Matt. “Both the length of the route for the mountain bike race, combined with the timing of the event made it possible for the race to continue. We weren’t actively doing construction where the route for the race crossed our construction right of way when the race took place.” 

Learning about the event so far in advance allowed the project team time to arrange for members of the construction crew to help with the race, which added an additional layer of safety. “We stationed team members wearing highly visible clothing at the intersection of the race route and the construction right of way to guide race participants around construction and toward the next trail,” says Matt. “We also had bottles of water available for participants.”

Construction in the park is scheduled to wrap up in the fall of 2022, with restoration of our work sites scheduled for 2023.

The Inland Gas Upgrades is a multi-year project to upgrade 29 sections of our existing natural gas lines in 18 communities throughout inland regions of BC. These upgrades, combined with our ongoing inspection and maintenance activities, will make sure these lines continue to provide safe, reliable service for many years to come.