Bill Nicholls has been working to reopen Rushbrook Trail for 14 years. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: Nicholls and dimes

Accountant Bill Nicholls helps Rupert organizations get back on track

As a teenager in the 70s, Bill Nicholls could often be found on the Rushbrook Trail — if you looked up.

“There’s a whole series of cliffs along the Rushbrook Trail. As teenagers, recklessly we would climb those cliffs. There was something called Eagle Bluff up there — it was a great lookout spot. Looking back on it, that was probably a crazy thing to do as a teenager,” Nicholls said with a laugh.

Now in his 50s, the born and raised Rupertite is one of the many behind opening one of Prince Rupert’s beloved but long-closed waterfront trails. Instead of scaling cliffs, Nicholls is looking forward to crossing the new bridges being installed this spring.

Since Rushbrook Trail closed in 2003 after a particularly heavy rainfall dislodged a large boulder, Nicholls has dedicated more than a decade to reopen the 1.2-kilometre path.

“The Rushbrook Trail has been my pet project for at least the last 14 years,” he said at the trailhead. “It was a very complicated project to facilitate with all of the different partners and funding sources. It was quite a challenging project but in the end, it’s all coming together really nicely now. It’s a big win for everybody I think.”

The project is one of many Nicholls and his wife Brenda have volunteered their time with as the treasurers for the Prince Rupert Rotary Club.

“Eighteen years I’ve been in Rotary,” Nicholls said. “I’ve found that’s been one of the highlights of being back in Rupert is working with the people towards community involvement, community improvement. All of the people in the Rotary Club in Prince Rupert have a similar mindset.”

READ and WATCH MORE: Rushbrook Trail upgrade trekking along

For most of Nicholls’s 57 years, he’s lived in Rupert with the exception of earning his degree in business administration at Simon Fraser. He and Brenda married in Vancouver and moved to the North Coast city when they were ready to settle down and raise kids. After earning his certified general accountant (CGA) title through correspondence courses out of Rupert, the vice president of finance for the Northern Savings Credit Union has been with the company for more than 30 years.

Much like his career with the Credit Union, what many of Nicholls’s volunteer efforts have in common is the amount of time he devotes to each of his projects. His shortest volunteering stint was for several years with the North Pacific Cannery’s financial management. His role, Nicholls said, is primarily to help organizations and non-profits get back on track and help board members understand the financial position of their organization.

But Nicholls uses his money managing skills for a more valuable ambition: “Anything that helps improve the community and has fun at the same time.”

One such board Nicholls sits on is the Friendship House. He joined six years ago when they were looking for financial assistance, but has been connected to it for much longer.

“I went to Friendship House for Sunday school when I was a kid, so I was a little bit familiar with the organization,” Nicholls said with a chuckle.

When he’s not balancing between financial duties, Nicholls likes to play squash and golf, and of course walk trails. He’s also a level IV referee for swim meets.

“My daughter was a swimmer back when she was as a teenager. Just like any other parent, you get involved with the sports your kids are involved with,” he said. Fifteen years later, Nicholls still referees, even though his daughter doesn’t swim in Rupert anymore.

“The whole purpose was for the kids to have fun,” Nicholls said. “The parents are actively involved in it, from being timers and referees and different officials. It’s almost a joint sport that parents and kids can do together. I like that atmosphere, so I just stayed with it.”

If 15 years sounds like a long time, Nicholls said his inspiration, fellow Rotarian Don Seidel, has been a swimming referee for at least 40 years.

The next steps for Nicholls will soon involve retracing his steps on the Rushbrook Trail once it opens.

“All the patience, just the steady persistence will have paid off,” he said. But it won’t be the end of the road. Nicholls plans to continue working with Kaien Island Trail Enhancement and Recreation Society on the trail, with plans to install benches and new signage.

Another phase of his career, however, is coming to an end. After more than 30 years at Credit Union, Nicholls is moving on from the company on March 29 and excited to see where his path will take him.

READ MORE: Rushbrook Trail Revitalization project breaks ground

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