New path at Peace Arch links Canada and U.S. at border crossing
Follow the red brick road — into Canada.
A new brick sidewalk safely guides pedestrians from the United States and into Canada at the one of the northern-most border crossings in the nation. But it’s not just a sidewalk — it serves as tangible evidence of how a small group of public servants used innovation and collaboration to finish a job.
Ranger Jason Snow is the man to thank for seeing it through.
“Thousands of people cross that area every day,” said Snow, who works at the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “That’s what sparked me to say, ‘We’ve got to do something.’”
It’s a project that makes Snow proud. It removed a significant safety hazard because people no longer have to walk on the I-5 shoulder to reach the park on either side.
“The sidewalk makes it so darn unique,” Snow said. “Connecting up to that is huge for the U.S. and Canada. There’s no other border crossing like this.”
More than 800,000 visitors pass through the border crossing each week. Once Snow recognized the need for a safer walkway, he gathered the paperwork, wrote proposals, explored funding options and came up with a plan. But inconsistent funding stood in the way for years.
For example, they learned they had to shift over an entire water line that included sprinklers, which meant the needed to relocate the sprinklers on top of everything else. They worked through public utility companies in Blaine, Washington to get that done.
They also didn’t have the funding to hire a company to do most of the work or bring in paid workers to help. Canada had the funding for their side. But Washington lacked the resources for anything outside of the building supplies. Funding became even tighter during the Great Recession.
So, what did they do? His team pulled it off by laying the bricks all by hand.
“There’s no contractor or bricklayer,” he said. “We figured it out on our own as a team. We were laying the bricks with our own park staff. We are already short-staffed in parks as it is. But it was the only way to get it done. I was down there laying bricks, too.”
While the Canadian sidewalk at the Peace Arch State Park took about a month to build, the American sidewalk took 10 years from start to finish.
Gov. Jay Inslee said the park is unique on its own because of the Peace Arch, with one section in the U.S. and the other section in Canada. The state park is dedicated to serenity and peace with two parks spanning two countries. The arch honors the centennial of the treaties that came about after the War of 1812.
“The Peace Arch is an important symbol of the special bond Washington has with Canada,” Inslee said. “It represents our common commitment to a shared future and these improvements respect and enhance this unique relationship.”
The project required 60-plus trips through U.S. customs with truckloads of dirt, gravel and sand. Multiple agencies pitched in when they could. The sidewalk needed 27 pallets of bricks, which got delivered because the Parks Department got to use the City of Blain’s forklift. The Washington State Department of Transportation workers provided traffic flaggers, signs and I-5 closures through the project timeline.
Snow said he’s proud that he kept at it for a decade. And now, a walkway — small but significant, brings two sides together in a location that already showcases the promise of peace through a large peace arch.
“We now have a way for folks to come in and get to where they need to go,” he said. “We made this whole connection with another nation at a unique location at the border. It’s international, it’s uniting. It’s a big deal.”