If you wanted to see Gord McKeever light up, all you had to do was mention the Sea to Sky Trail, a project that was near and dear to his heart until his passing in 2016.
“He just loved it. The idea of a linear park was just delightful to him. Seriously,” said McKeever’s wife, Libby. “He talked about it wherever we went.”
Now, a section of the trail will bear the name of one of its biggest boosters. The recently completed Gord’s Garden is a seven-kilometre stretch between Whistler and Pemberton that follows the Green River and passes through the site of a prehistoric rockslide.
Also known as Rock Garden, it was one of McKeever’s favourite sections of the unfinished Sea to Sky Trail.
“It was a particularly troublesome bit,” said Libby. “He loved the idea that it was an impenetrable barrier, this puzzle, and he wanted to figure out how to get through it.”
The Sea to Sky Trail’s original project manager, McKeever was a fierce advocate for the route, and, with his experience as the former board chair of the Whistler Housing Authority and a dogged Whistler councillor from 2002 to 2008, he was uniquely positioned to navigate the various interests at play—from the province to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and local First Nations—to make such an ambitious vision come to life.
“He could be in any of those rooms,” said Allison Macdonald, the SLRD’s parks and trails coordinator, who worked closely with McKeever over the years. “He wanted to be comfortable with the people he was working with in any of those situations, so, for sure, he was the right person at the right time for the project.”
Funded with a grant from the SLRD and Trans Canada Trail, this latest addition means there are now 126 km of the Sea to Sky Trail completed between Squamish and D’Arcy.
Once completed, the trail, which also encompasses the Sea to Sky Marine Trail and connects to the Great Trail, will span 180 km, linking the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Coast Mountains to the north.
“I think it shows the original connectedness of this region,” said SLRD board chair Jen Ford. “We call it the Sea to Sky corridor, and yet it’s fragmented. So the effort being put here is to really connect that ‘sea’ and ‘sky’ meaning in the corridor.”
First envisioned in 1991, the Sea to Sky Trail has been decades in the making—and, while a project of this magnitude requires multiple hands at the table, it was McKeever’s tireless advocacy and fundraising that propelled the concept forward.
“He had the most unique set of skills that I think fostered a forward movement with the trail, but he wasn’t alone,” said Libby.
“The fact that we have this beautiful environment right at our doorstep, and the fact that he was able to make that accessible was very important to him.”
Asked what he’d think of having a section of trail named after him, Libby said, “He’d be totally chucked. He’d be embarrassed but so thankful. Apart from the Marine Trail, this was something he really wanted to get done. It was difficult and he really wanted to do it. It was that extra link between Whistler and Pemberton.”
An opening ceremony dedicating Gord’s Garden will be held in the spring.
The non-motorized, multi-use Sea to Sky Trail is open year-round for walking, hiking or biking in the summer, and cross-country skiing in the winter.
For more information, visit slrd.bc.ca/services/recreation-culture/parks-trails/sea-sky-trail.