Grade 10 students Kasha Bell and Nevé Richards working on wooden arch that will be installed on the TransCanada trail at Elk Pass in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Ezra Black/The Free Press Grade 10 students Kasha Bell and Nevé Richards working on wooden arch that will be installed on the TransCanada trail at Elk Pass in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Timber arch on the TransCanada trail

Elk Valley high school students collaborate on Canada 150 project

To commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday and the completion of the TransCanada trail, Elk Valley high school students are constructing a massive wooden arch on the B.C.-Alberta border.

Stephen Larsen, project coordinator and teacher at Sparwood Secondary School has an ambitious plan to install the arch on the TransCanada trail at Elk Pass, which connects the Elk Valley with the Kananaskis Valley in Alberta.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of people coming through (the TransCanada trail),” he said. “And I want them to have an idea of what this valley has to offer and its pride.”

He also said the project would forge deeper connections between students from different communities and would allow them to learn skills that they might not pick up in school.

The arch is being built using three locally harvested pine logs that have been donated by lumber company Stella-Jones. Each of them weighs about 1000 kilograms.

After it is designed and constructed by high school students from Fernie, Elkford and Sparwood, the arch will be delivered by truck to the Elk Lakes Provincial Park. It will then be manually transported five kilometres into the bush by groups of students and then assembled using a system of pulleys. Construction is scheduled to be completed in the weeks leading up to Canada Day.

On May 10, four student volunteers accompanied by Fernie Secondary School teacher Kerri Holmes were working on their section of the arch at local chainsaw sculptor Michael Penny’s workshop on Highway 3.

“We’ve been figuring out the symbols we want to represent on the arch,” said Holmes.

The students were using electric tools to carve designs that had previously been etched into the wood. They left the chainsaw work to Penny, who is helping with the design and construction of the arch. “I’m providing guidance and helping with their ideas and how they want to represent the valley.”

After a bit of practice, the students were displaying advanced carving skills.

“This was actually really fun,” said Grade 10 student Kasha Bell. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder but I’m pretty proud of this.”

The arch will feature a host of carved images including a likeness of Heiko Socher, as well as a skier, a fisherman and wildlife.

“I’m going to lose sleep over it,” said Penny of the project. “It’s big and ambitious.”

“I love seeing youth around carving and doing things they may have never done before. I’m also intimidated because there’s a lot of carving ahead for all of us.”