A little-known canopy walkway tucked away in UBC Botanical Garden is shedding its discreet identity in hopes of becoming a popular Vancouver attraction.
From now to October, visitors to Greenheart Canopy Walkway can trek along 10 suspension bridges connected by eight light-weight platforms harnessed to towering Douglas firs and western red cedars. With free guided tours every hour, visitors are introduced to plant species and walkway technology from roughly 20 metres above the forest floor.
Tour guide Angus Straight said having the walkway suspended is part of Greenheart’s conservation philosophy.
“If we brought 60 school groups here, they’re going to trample on the ferns ... We want to make it so we can take people up these areas, not hurt the trees, not hurt the area below.”
Although conservation doesn’t appear to be a challenge for the company, publicity is.
“I don’t think it’s been well publicized. A lot of local people don’t know about it,” said repeat customer Eileen Kosarek.
Greenheart co-founder Ian Green, says support from Vancouver residents has been slow since its opening in 2008. For the first time, Greenheart has hired sales and marketing staff and they’re planning haunted Halloween walks, high teas on the tower, bird watching, and possible dance performances among the canopy.
“We’re hoping to see people out here. We’re just not known, and some of it is our own fault. We’re not aggressive in advertising. This is a very different experience than what you’ll get at Capilano Suspension Bridge where you have 800,000 to a million visitors. Here you’ve got some calm and serenity.”
Tickets to access the walkway start at $20 for an adult and $10 for a child with discount rates for youths, seniors, families, and members. UBC student Emily Smith would consider buying a ticket if there was more information about the walkway.
“I’m on a student budget, so I might do it [if] I was able to find out more about it. Seeing as we get into the garden just for free, paying 15 to 20 would not be so bad for that experience.”
For a city that aims to be the greenest in the world by 2020, Green hopes turnout at the walkway will reflect that goal.
“People don’t seem to want to invest in nature. They’ll put their money in Twitter, Facebook, and just the most bizarre things from my perspective,” he said.
“But when it comes down to ‘Hey we’re trying to protect this area, we want to teach people about this,’ people don’t seem to get the value and to me it’s a major concern for our education system and our own value system.”
Being popular isn’t synonymous with being big for Greenheart. The company hopes to strike a balance of keeping its serenity while drawing a bigger crowd.