Light at the end of the tunnel

Seven years of work comes to fruition to pay tribute to Fernie's mining history

by Dan Williams
Photo of outside city hall

Fernie's Miners Walk takes shape outside city hall. — Dan Williams photo

After seven years in the making, Fernie’s Miners Walk is now under construction and is expected to be unveiled to the public in November of 2011.

Mary Giuliano, a Fernie city councillor and member of the Miners Walk steering committee, explained the spark that led to this installation.

In 2004, the city of  Fernie, B.C., celebrated its 100th year of incorporation; despite the fact that mining was integral to the origins of the city, nothing mining-related was included in the celebrations. 

“Nothing was done to even mention the word coal or coal mining, or that Fernie had a history of mining,” Giuliano said.  “A few of the older citizens from Fernie that were born here and whose parents had worked in the mines and whose husbands had worked in the mines said, 'This is not right—we should have had something.' "

Several community members then decided to do something that would celebrate Fernie's mining history and all the players involved, as well as present a look to the future.

After several false starts, it was in 2010 that things began to come together. Calgary designer Lorne Perry, who was working on another project in Fernie, had conversations with the Miners Walk committee and mentioned a world-renowned Calgary artist named Jeff DeBoer, who specializes in optical illusions.

This will be unique

“It’s several free-standing sculptures, and when you walk around it, it forms an optical illusion of the miner's face," said Giuliano. "Before we said yes, Jeff made us a model about 16 to 18 inches high . . . and when the face forms, it is quite remarkable.” 

When you have strolled past the six educational and interactive sites along the path, you will come face to face at the end of the path with the what is described as an optical illusion. From different vantage points it looks like an interesting structure with jutting posts and a circle design at the top. When you finally get to the end of the walk, the structure turns into the face of a miner—with hard hat, lamp and all.

Even what you walk on will have significance. A special path is being created with more than 300 bricks that will be inscribed with a name of a miner, a miner’s family or the name of a contributor to the walk.

Although the concept, design and sculpture were done in Calgary, everything else—from the landscaping to the electrical and other features—was provided locally.

Patience and persistence rewarded

The Miners Walk committee—made up of Bob Morris, George Cockburn, Mary Loughery, Helen Bachlet, Mike Pennock, Tammy Molander and Giuliano—have been tenacious in their vision through the challenges of the project and will soon see it come to life.

Funding for the Miners Walk was provided in part by Teck Coal, the City of Fernie and Columbia Basin Trust, as well as private companies, organizations and individuals. If you would like to donate, email Giuliano.

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