Users of the Slocan Valley Rail Trail should keep an eye out this summer for wildlife in the tunnel at the south end of the popular recreation route. Local artist Peter Vogelaar has spent the last three weeks smearing, blotting and delicately retouching paint on the 3,200 square feet of inner walls of the new Highway 3 pedestrian underpass to depict seasonal scenes and animals from the Slocan Valley.
As of June 6, Vogelaar has put 19 working days into the creation. He hopes to have it completed and sealed with a graffiti-proof lacquer by the end of next week.
The new tunnel replaces the South Slocan pedestrian bridge that was torn down last summer as part of highway upgrades which also saw the stretch of road through Playmor Junction expanded for better visibility and safer intersections.
Vogelaar, also a world-renowned sand, snow and ice sculptor, has designed a mural inspired from his own experiences on the trail. He and over 20 volunteers have covered the concrete walls with animals like bears and trout along with vistas like the jutting point of Frog Peak and the Slocan River.
“There’s no way I could have done all this by myself,” Vogelaar said, waving his paintbrush down the 60 metres of tunnel walls. “It’s a lot of square feet to paint.”
The Slocan Valley Arts Council brought out many of the volunteers, but Vogelaar says some were just trail users who were passing by, asking if they could contribute.
“It’s funny,” he said, “when people come to help out, they say thank you when they leave.”
Though the mural is nearly complete, Vogelaar can’t help but to slap dashes of greens and browns to the background every time he echoes down the tunnel to inspect his work.
“Sometimes I look at the picture and I find that it’s too much the same, so I add a little bit,” he said. “I have some fun just being impressionistic.”
Despite the urge to add flecks here and there, Vogelaar will soon have to put the lids back on the paint cans. He’ll be teaching a sand-sculpting workshop in Crescent Valley in June before travelling across the continent to showcase his sand sculpting talent.
The mural, already open to the public, will be officially unveiled on June 14 with the support of the BC Ministry of Transport, the Slocan Valley Arts Council and the Slocan Valley Rail Trail Society.