This map from the City of Quesnel shows where the Riverfront Trail will be closed around G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital, where Early Works construction will begin Feb. 12. (Map courtesy of City of Quesnel)

Riverfront Trail detour, hospital Early Works construction start Feb. 12 in Quesnel

A portion of the popular trail will be closed as site preparation begins for hospital redevelopment

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 12, a section of the Riverfront Trail near the hospital will be closed for up to two years to accommodate the redevelopment work at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital.

To ensure the safety of trail users, the City of Quesnel has created two detour options. Detour signage will be in place and will direct users to Reid Street, with options to cross at Carson Avenue and Front Street or St. Laurent Avenue and Front Street.

The closure will be in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If timing permits, there is a possibility to reopen the trail between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the redevelopment project, according to a press release from the City, which encourages residents to watch for updates on the City website and watch for trail signage.

The trail closure comes as Northern Health has announced that Early Works will be starting Feb. 12 in preparation for the construction of the G.R. Baker Emergency Department (ED) redevelopment and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) relocation.

The tender for the Early Works phase of the project closed on Dec. 6, and the successful bidder is Ram Excavating Ltd. of Quesnel.

Andrea Palmer, Northern Health’s communications lead for capital projects, emphasizes this is not the start of the construction of the actual expansion.

“Early Works is the phase where they prepare the site and services before construction,” she explained.

Early Works construction comprises the first of two phases for the expansion of G.R. Baker, and this fist phase, which is beginning Wednesday, Feb. 12, will specifically entail relocating a sanitary sewer line servicing Walkem Street and other buildings.

“There is no anticipation right now that residents on Walkem Street will be impacted,” said Palmer.

Sewer services should not be interrupted, but work will be taking place on the sanitary sewer main servicing all properties on Walkem Street and upstream. No excavation on Walkem Street is expected, according to Northern Health.

Palmer says the construction traffic will be using Walkem Street and Bowron Avenue for access to the construction area. Access to residents’ driveways and personal property will not be blocked, but she says there will be extra traffic in the neighbourhood. Motorists are asked to be extra cautious while coming into and leaving the neighbourhood.

There will also be noise typical to construction sites, such as back-up alarms and compaction equipment, while crews are working.

There will be no construction activity before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m. on a weekday or before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m. on any weekend or statutory holiday, as per City of Quesnel bylaw regulations.

Palmer says at this point, the construction work will not affect parking or access to the entrance of the hospital.

“When the Early Works is done, major construction will begin, and there will be some changes to access and parking, and we’re working with the City,” she said.

Due to the cultural history of the community and site, an Archaeological Impact Assessment is a provincial requirement.

“There were items of interest found in early testings,” said Palmer, noting this work is going on in consultation with local First Nations, and Northern Health has permission from the Advisory Group — which includes local First Nations. “The archaeological review is ongoing through the life of the project.”

An August 2019 update on Northern Health’s website says human remains were discovered on the site, and the coroner determined they were archaeological.

“Northern Health, its archaeologist, representatives from the Ministry of Citizen Services and local First Nations are continuing dialogue to determine next steps in the respectful examination of the remains during the period of excavation for building foundations,” according to the update. “Northern Health is aware of the significance of this land to local First Nations and is working with representatives.”

In November, Northern Health noted that the Archaeological Impact Assessment was in progress.

The Early Works phase will permit archaeological review as existing underground services are relocated to make way for the main project when it is ready to proceed, according to Northern Health’s February 2020 update.

The main project, which was approved by the provincial government in April 2019, will co-locate the ED and ICU in a new, redeveloped Critical Care Services area that is approximately 16,684 square feet.

READ MORE: Quesnel’s G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital to get new emergency department and ICU

On completion, the redeveloped ED will contain new and updated treatment rooms, along with a modernized trauma room and other treatment spaces, while the redeveloped ICU will contain five patient care rooms with private washrooms, as well as anterooms and a physician dictation room for increased privacy. The redeveloped area will also host a family meeting room and a new, centralized nursing station, according to Northern Health.

The cost of the project is $27 million, which is being cost-shared between the provincial government through Northern Health and the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District.

Palmer says the project is still on budget and on schedule. She says they are still projecting a 2021 completion date, and once the major construction begins, they will be able to narrow that down more specifically.

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