Creating community identity and connection

Campbellton Neighbourhood Association

We wanted to create a welcoming place for visitors and locals to experience the natural beauty of the area in an enhanced way… – Deb Gyles, Campbell River Realtor

As a child, Deb Gyles spent many days playing at “Sandy Pool”, a small private beach alongside the Campbell River outside her grandparents’ house. At the time, frolicking in this section of the river or just further south, in the industrial neighbourhood of Campbellton, was relatively unheard-of.

There wasn’t a lot of river access in Campbellton back then,” says Deb, who’s been a realtor in Campbell River for nearly two decades. “The access points were dark and overrun by thorny bushes and trees. This left limited public access to the river and no opportunity to enjoy the hidden gem that is actually there.”

Over the last few years, this tucked away section has been undergoing a transformation through a new project run by the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association (CNA). One of the community planning initiatives is known as Bridge Viewpoint. It was started in 2019 by the CAN, alongside a group of Vancouver Island University Masters students. It is also a part of the broader “Rescue the River” project and positioned to join a new seven-kilometre River Route trail system linking seven Campbellton trails.

“Bridge Viewpoint is part of this larger effort to revitalize and rebrand Campbellton River Village,” says Laurel Cronk, Chair of CNA and a riverside homeowner herself. “We wanted to create a welcoming place for visitors and locals to experience the natural beauty of the area in an enhanced way – to feel like they are in the river itself.”

To help create the sense of being at one with the environment, the Bridge Viewpoint project merges nature with interactive art all within an easily accessible neighbourhood gathering space. The public parkette, with salmon as its central focus, will feature a 50-foot-long mural designed by local artist Alex Witcombe. The piece is inspired by the photography of award-winning artist, Eiko Jones, whose underwater video trailer, Heartbeat of the River, will be accessible through a QR code onsite.

“Without ICET’s support, we could never have enriched the project with the art,” says Laurel, who is also grateful to the City of Campbell River’s support. “The project would have just been another park… But now, it’s the talk of the town!”

Community excitement around the project has manifested into an impressive level of collaboration and involvement.

“So many people are coming out to take care of it,” says Laurel. “Areas that were once filled with garbage are now regularly cleaned. It’s given a sense of pride to everyone.”

And while Deb’s days of frolicking at Sandy Pool may be behind her, she’s more than pleased to see the unique transformation underway along the riverbank – one that’s always secretly lurked behind those thorny bushes.

The Trust is contributing $50,000 towards the Campbellton Revitalization Project (2021) through the Community Placemaking program.