Boardwalks and Visitors

It figures. Leave town for a week and they change things.

In this case, it’s the boardwalks they’re changing, and I can’t complain about that at all.

Every few years it needs to be done. The boards rot away; the ground moves beneath them; and a year after they were last replaced what was straight and even has become a bit of a roller coaster.

Regular maintenance requires the city crew to replace individual boards until the permafrost has finally done too much damage for that to work. Then they have to dig up entire stretches, rebuild the foundation with fresh dirt, and lay in fresh timber.

By the end of the summer the wood has gone as grey as the older sections, but it’s still even for walking, at least until the next spring.

We walk our dog regularly, and a lot of those walks follow the boardwalk system, at least until we get down to the dike, so we notice their condition.

Two weeks ago there were a lot of questionable boards. Some were gouged by the winter snow ploughs; others had been driven on and broken by people rolling up to park.

In other cases several years of sun, snow and ice had simply disintegrated some of the boards, and we had to step carefully. Now a lot of them have been replaced.

I’m just back from Skagway, where they only have boardwalks in the historic (i.e. tourist commercial) part of the town, and they do them differently there.

The walking surface is wooden, but the boards are installed across cement footings, with supports on each side and one in the middle of the walk. Their replacements are all board by board.

I suppose that works there because they don’t share our soil conditions. Besides, doing it that way here certainly wouldn’t fit our gold rush theme. I have to wonder though, if the tourists would notice.

They love our boardwalks, but mostly as objects in photographs. They tend to walk in the street and take pictures of our boardwalks and buildings.

They also tend not to be too careful about where they walk or about what might be bearing down on them.

That behavior hasn’t changed much since I wrote the following bit of verse as a warning nearly 20 years ago.

Boardwalk Blues: a Cautionary Tale

Hey there, Mister Tourist,

can you take this crazy heat?

You’re standing there with lens to eye

and looking rather beat.

I realize you truly think

our boardwalk’s kinda neat,

but you’re gonna get hit

by a moving RV

if you don’t get outta the street!

That building that you’re shooting

isn’t quite the age you think.

We make ’em up to order

to avoid the council’s stink.

We’re really glad to have you here,

we like your money’s clink.

So I’m makin’ this fuss,

get away from that bus,

or it’ll push you into the drink!

Stroll up the road to Gerties,

pick a card and lose your shirt.

Stroll through our great Museum

where nobody gets hurt.

Go anyplace where your mind’s alive

and your senses are alert.

And to get there,

walk on the boardwalks, please,

and not in our dusty old dirt.

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