Installing Handrails at Victoria BC Ogden Point Breakwater:
Zapco Welding and Fabricating, a Victoria Company, has been awarded the contract to construct an aluminum and stainless steel cable handrail at the Ogden Point breakwater. The firm was awarded this contract because of the good price, capacity, and past working relations with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. While it's a non-profit organization, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority owns the property and invited 10 firms to present proposals for handrails based on its design, cost, and timeline specifications. Zapco Welding and Fabricating has constructed handrails in the past at Fisherman's
Wharf and in the Inner Harbour (Petrescu par, 4). The main reason for the construction of the aluminum and stainless steel cable handrail at Ogden Point breakwater is because it will lessen the installation time and the duration the breakwater is closed. Despite of these goals, the project has attracted split opinions that have been expressed in different platforms, especially across social media.
History of Ogden Point Breakwater at Victoria, British Columbia:
The Ogden Point Breakwater at Victoria, British Columbia has a history that can be traced back to the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914. The canal offered a much shorter course to the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic and was expected to considerably increase shipping entering Seattle, Washington, Vancouver, and Victoria BC. While the City of Victoria wanted to capitalize on the increase in shipping, the entry to the port is lashed by enormously powerful southeast gales. As a result, deep water piers required protection from the vicious onslaughts of southeast winds and waves in order for shipping to consider stopping.
In 1913, a survey of the suggested location for the new docks and breakwater at the entrance of Victoria's Harbour was carried out by Harbour Engineer Louis Coste. Based on the findings of his survey, the engineer recommended two breakwaters i.e. one starting from Ogden Point and extending West while the other springing at Macauley Point and protruding East. However, the Ogden Point Breakwater was the only one to be built because the Macauley Point breakwater was regarded as extremely expensive for the uncertain protection it could offer (MacFarlane & Polson, par, 2).
The initial estimation for the construction of the breakwater and two concrete piers at Ogden Point was $1,100,000. According to the Canadian Department of Public Works, these piers were initially about 800 feet long and 250 feet wide in addition to having a clearance between them of 300ft. The contract to build the breakwater and the two piers was awarded to the Sir Jackson Company, which secured a quarry at Royal Bay to provide the construction materials. In addition, A.J. Ratcliff & Co, a local engineering company was hired to design and build two derricks to deal with the stone material. In this case, one was to carry out its work at Royal Bay while the other was to work at Ogden Point.
Following the issuing of a contract by Canada's Dominion Government in 1913, work on the Ogden Point breakwater started in the same year. These activities incorporated a broad design of developing a rip-rap mound with a mass concrete wall built on top of it. This would be followed by the placement of large blocks of granite on the wall's weather side in order to safeguard the wall and the rubble (MacFarlane & Polson, par, 5). While the derricks had to be huge machines, the rubble was to be moved by scow during the construction process. The need for derricks to be huge machines was because they had to deal with heavy granite and granite blocks.
Ogden Point Breakwater was completed in early 1917 and named after a fur trader and explorer, Peter Skene Ogden, an employee of Hudson Bay Company. The breakwater was demarcated in 1918 by a square, white pyramidal concrete tower that was built by Parfitt Brothers in a contract worth $1,655. The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority was established in 2002 and took ownership of the Ogden Point Breakwater, which comprised of land protruding from the breakwater to the north of the James Bay Anglers Association site. Transport Canada offered funds worth several million dollars as initial funding and for improvements at the sites. Since in construction, Ogden Point Breakwater has developed to become one of the most popular sites and unique destinations in addition to providing significant navigational help to mariners.
Installation of Handrails at Ogden Point Breakwater:
Generally, the Ogden Point Breakwater is renowned as a spectacular walkway and iconic destination for both locals and visitors alike. In December 2012, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, a non-profit making corporation that owns the breakwater announced plans for the installation of handrails in attempts to enhance the accessibility of the breakwater and improve safety. Actually, safety concerns are among the major reasons for the inability of people with limited mobility to complete enjoy the distinctive Victoria experience ("Media Release: Ogden Point Breakwater," p.1).
The installation of handrails will enable people in wheelchairs and scooters to access the Victoria experience freely at the full length of the breakwater. This measure will also offer peace of mind to families with small children, those with vertigo or balance conditions, and the elderly walking on the breakwater or stopping to look at it. In addition to these factors, the installation of the handrails is designed to comply with the Canada Labour Code that requires fall protection for Great Victoria Harbour Authority employees and contractors maintaining the breakwater.
When designing the handrails for safety upgrade, the Great Victoria Harbour Authority considered retaining the unique experience of the Ogden Point Breakwater at Victoria, British Columbia. Notably, the corporation was very aware of the need to maintain the spectacular views while providing the needed protection for the public and its maintenance team when selecting the handrail design. In order to preserve the viewscapes despite of whether a person is standing or seated in a wheelchair, the design of the handrails include a streamline post-and-cable ("Media Release: Ogden Point Breakwater," p.1).
The handrail plans includes a new series of stairs by lighthouse and entrance upgrades in order to accomplish its objectives. Since the installation is planned for the winter season to lessen inconvenience for visitors of the breakwater, the breakwater was scheduled to be closed for a maximum of 12 weeks since the beginning of the year. The construction of the handrails project is funded by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority through its internal capital reserves. The estimated cost of the handrails is $425,000 excluding the cost of concrete and other work on the project. However, the initial total cost of the project was approximately $500,000, which was to be catered for by the harbor authority.
The handrails will be constructed off-site at Zapco Welding and Fabricating Warehouse in Langford and at Ogden Point. During the design stage, the handrails will be fabricated in 12-metre sections and installed in 20 to 30 panels. As part of ensuring the timeliness of the process, Tom Burns, the owner of Zapco Welding and Fabricating, has stated that his firm will probably add two people to its current team of five employees for the project.
Varying Opinions on the Handrail Project:
The idea of designing and installing handrails on the Ogden Point breakwater was prompted by regulations by the government to keep the employees of Greater Victoria Harbour Authority safe and improve access and safety for individuals with mobility problems. However, this plan has horrified some users and been supported by others, which has contributed to the emergence of a huge controversy (Holmen, par, 2). One of the major reasons that have spurred the controversy is the fact there was no public consultation before the decision was made. The response towards this plan has inspired a few twists to the project such as rub rails for wheelchairs and probable staircase near the center of the breakwater.
The proponents of the project argue that it will provide extra security and safety, especially for those with mobility problems. Some of the major proponents of the project are advocates for citizens with disabilities who argue on grounds that their members have been unable to go onto the breakwater. Furthermore, the construction of the handrails is supported on the basis that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority had no option but to install them in order to enhance the accessibility of the breakwater to the public. As compared to several decades ago, the world has significantly changed to an extent that the tolerance to risk is very different. Therefore, new measures for risk tolerance such as installing handrails at Ogden Point Breakwater need to be adopted to cope with these changes.
Opposition to the Handrails:
While the objectives of the handrail project are reasonable, the project is not suitable and unnecessary, especially in relation to the costs of the handrails since very few accidents have occurred without the handrails over the years. In my own opinion, the construction of the handrails is associated with huge unnecessary costs…