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A look into the first year of the Malahat Skywalk

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It feels like the blink of an eye, but Malahat Skywalk has already been open for one year as of Friday.

General Manager Ken Bailey says since opening they’ve had about 250,000 visitors to the attraction. Despite that number, Bailey says it’s been a little slower than projected before opening.

“It’s been quite a learning curve for us since July 15th of last year,” says Bailey.

He says that from the heat dome to the highway restrictions following the atmospheric river, abnormal weather contributed to their traffic being a little lower than projected.

“For probably 90-120 days we really struggled to get more than three days of sun in a row,” says Bailey. “In a business like this that thrives on beautiful views, nature, an outdoor experience, and connecting with the natural environment – nicer weather adds to the overall experience and we’ve had a pretty cold, wet spring as everybody knows.”

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In spite of the rain, they’re working to showcase that a rainy day doesn’t mean you should cancel your trip to the Skywalk.

“The people that come on the rainy days actually have a great time because they’re just looking for a different experience,” says Bailey. “Especially our international clientele – they may be coming from environments that don’t get any rain. So they’re actually quite enamored by the fact that it could be raining. There’s sort of that ‘west coast’ cloud, it’s rolling cloud. The views from the top are different on a rainy day than they are on a bluebird day.”

But make sure to not forget your raincoat on those days because the Skywalk doesn’t sell ponchos – although they will be selling umbrellas this winter.

“We don’t sell ponchos because most of the ponchos are disposable and they’re mostly made of plastic,” says Bailey. “We’re trying to limit the impact that we have with plastics and things of that nature.”

Their environmentally friendly theme is seen throughout their operations including environmental stewardship of the grounds. Their efforts have included planting arbutus and garry oak groves, and removing the invasive scotch broom.

“Our approach is sustainable,” says Bailey. “We’re obviously going to have some level of impact on the land around us, but what we try to do every day is act in a sustainable way and continue to try and bring this area back to its natural environment.”

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In preparation for their first full summer, they’ve made some expansions in both staff and amenities. They’ve doubled their staff from about 25 to 50 employees. The added manpower will be going towards the full-time food canteen at the base of the tower.

As for Bailey, he says his favourite part of the attraction is actually the walk to and from the tower.

“In those two moments, you’re just immersed in the forest around you,” says Bailey. “When you’re immersed in this douglas fir, coastal rainforest mix with the arbutus and the garry oak […] I just find it very inspiring because you’re right in the middle of what we’re trying to share with our guests.”

To celebrate one year since opening, they’re hosting an event with face painting, music, and other entertainment. It runs on Friday from 9:30am until 5pm.

That includes a scavenger hunt, nature bingo, and a driftwood art clinic with Tanya Bub, who has made the driftwood sculptures that are seen throughout their grounds.

They’ve also decided to keep their grounds open until 9pm on Saturdays to host live music. They’ve also added a liquor license where they’ll be serving locally sourced drinks.

Bailey is thrilled to get their first full summer underway at the Skywalk.

“We’re pretty excited for this summer, I think it’s going to be a big one for Vancouver Island,” Bailey says, “We’re looking forward to a nice, warm, long, hot summer and fall. Come on out and visit us.”

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