In February 2020, volunteers from ConservationVIP® assisted by volunteers from TdP Legacy Fund, completed the construction of 1,110 feet of boardwalk on a new section of “the W” hiking trail in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. This boardwalk was a critical link in a major new hiking route which will reduce congestion on the W.
Construction of the boardwalk marked the culmination of a multi-year trail building project. In 2015, CONAF – the Chilean agency entrusted to manage Torres del Paine National Park – asked ConservationVIP to evaluate the viability of converting an old horse trail into a hiking trail. A new trail would relieve severe overcrowding on a section of the “the W” hiking trail between Paine Grande and Italian Camp.
We understood the need to reduce congestion on the trail, and agreed that the new route would be a beautiful trail. There were however some formidable obstacles:
- The length of the trail would require a multi-year building program
- Crossing the outlet of Skottsberg lake would require construction of a new bridge
- Most importantly from an environmental point of view, we strongly recommended that in order to protect a fragile meadow at the end of the route, a very long boardwalk would need to be built.
CONAF wanted to proceed, and ConservationVIP agreed to help. We first repaired the original trail route, to keep hikers from damaging that area while the new trail was built. Then we constructed the new trail in 2017 – 2019 and constructed Skottsberg Bridge in 2018 – 2019.
While we were progressing on the trail and the bridge, we set about confirming the best route across the meadow, designing the boardwalk and estimating the cost. CONAF agreed to provide support for the project, including the critical and expensive delivery of materials “the final leg of the trip” via helicopter to the site. Still, we concluded that buying the materials and having them delivered to the Park would cost approximately $30,000, so securing funding for the Boardwalk was a major issue. We are very grateful to REI Adventures which agreed to adopt the project and funded a $30,000 grant through the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund.
Planning, buying the materials, organizing the construction and then constructing the boardwalk required countless hours and many more people than we can mention here. Our volunteer trip reports have photos of the construction and the volunteers who contributed their invaluable time and enthusiasm. To get a sense of the roller coaster ride and the wider circle of people who contributed to the project, read our blog about the boardwalk project.