New timber boardwalk pays homage to Gimli’s Icelandic roots

The rich history of Iceland in the community of Gimli is being recognized by a heartfelt new addition to a popular part of town.

A brand new timber-made boardwalk titled “The Fjallkona Walkway” was revealed Saturday afternoon.

The new Fjallkona walkway in Gimli after Saturday’s opening ceremony.
The new Fjallkona walkway in Gimli after Saturday’s opening ceremony. Marek Tkach / Global News

The boardwalk was named after the Fjallkona, an age-old Icelandic tradition.

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“Since 1924, the Icelandic Fesitval of Manitoba has been honouring one woman in our community each year; we call her the Fjallkona and she represents Mother Iceland. She’s most often a woman who’s done a lot for the community,” said Kathi Thorarinson-Neal, a co-chair of the project.

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The walkway is lined with plaques of previous Fjallkona’s, including 2020’s 98-year-old-honouree Anna Stevens.

The Fjallkona walkway in Gimli, lined with plaques of former honournees.
The Fjallkona walkway in Gimli, lined with plaques of former honournees. Marek Tkach / Global News

“Who would have believed that we’d come this far and it’s wonderful to walk along here, I’m sure we’ll take many walks this way, it’s beautiful,” said Stevens, who spoke at Saturday’s grand opening before taking an honourary stroll down the boardwalk.

The new piece of infrastructure sits behind the Gimli harbour. It’s part of the Viking Park Connectivity Project, which began shortly after the park was built in 2014.

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“That project connects Viking Park to the harbour-front — what we call the heart of New Iceland — with better and safer sidewalks, the beautiful timber boardwalk, better infrastructure such as crosswalks and better lighting,” said Neal.

A group of former Fjallkona raised $25,000 for the walkway earlier this year.

A group of former Fjallkona presents at Saturday’s opening ceremony.
A group of former Fjallkona presents at Saturday’s opening ceremony. Marek Tkach / Global News

“I mean, it was amazing in this year of all times that we could raise the money to see this happen. We started in the middle of May with campaigning and by the end of June we had met our goal,” said Margaret Thorlakson-Kernested, a member of the project’s fundraising committee.

Thorlakson-Kernested said even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the community of Gimli rallied together amid tough times.

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“Most of the Gimli people have someone that has been a Fjallkona, a friend or a relative,” she said.

The entire Viking Connectivity Project has a price tag of $2 million, which is being covered by fundraising, donations and grants.

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Icelandic Festival: Sights and Sounds

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