NANAIMO -- The first phase of upgrades to Benson Creek Falls Regional Park intended to improve safety and accessibility is now complete, and the affected section of trail has reopened for use.

Improvements included a new, 40-stall parking lot with kiosk centre on Weigles Road, as well as viewing platforms, wooden staircases and railings on both sides of a steep ravine. A 30-metre bridge now connects the two sides of the ravine.

The bridge, which runs over Benson Creek, was prefabricated and had to be airlifted into place back in March.

Construction on the popular trail – which is located just outside the harbour city, within the Regional District of Nanaimo – started last year.

“It’s a pretty special site, going down a ravine and Ammonite Falls is really breathtaking,” says Yann Gagnon, manager of parks services for the RDN. “It all made sense to improve it for everybody to enjoy it.”

The upgraded section means it will take visitors approximately 15 minutes to get the bottom of the ravine from the Weigles Rd parking lot and another 15 minutes to get to Ammonite Falls.

The final phase of improvements is expected to begin this July and are intended to improve access to Ammonite Falls. Upgrades will include a viewing platform at the falls, and are expected to be complete in late October or early November.

The whole project will cost $1.1 million.