Pre­serv­ing mem­o­ries of old bridge

New Wal­terdale cross­ing set to open by end of the month

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Edmonton - Kevin Maimann

With the new Wal­terdale Bridge set to open by the end of Septem­ber, some Ed­mon­to­ni­ans are think­ing about ways to pre­serve the mem­ory of its pre­de­ces­sor.

Ed­mon­ton Her­itage Coun­cil Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor David Ri­d­ley said it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize the sig­nif­i­cance of the green bridge with the “weird” open­grate deck that has al­lowed pas­sage across the North Saskatchewan River for more than a cen­tury.

“Let’s make sure that there’s at least recog­ni­tion that it was im­por­tant and there’s a way of re­tain­ing some kind of mem­ory about it,” Ri­d­ley said.

He said the bridge marks a key place on the river where the wa­ter depth al­lowed pas­sage to oc­cur, and where busi­ness­man John Wal­ter ran his ferry ser­vice in the early 1900s.

Ri­d­ley said he would like to see some sort of his­tor­i­cal marker to con­nect gen­er­a­tions and give peo­ple a deeper sense of place.

Dan Rose with Her­itage For­ward said rem­nants of the bridge could “make a fan­tas­tic look­out point over the river.”

“I for one, and I think many her­itage groups in Ed­mon­ton, would strongly en­cour­age preser­va­tion or some sort of re­use of the struc­ture,” Rose said.

Fail­ing that, he sug­gests, gird­ers could be sal­vaged for a park fea­ture.

Kelly Fitzgib­bon, the city’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser for the Wal­terdale bridge project, said the old one will start com­ing down later this year, once traf­fic and trail links have been moved over to the new bridge.

She said the city is re­view­ing op­tions for sal­vaging parts, but no spe­cific plans have been brought for­ward.

She said the north end has to come down be­cause it emp­ties onto the same street as the new bridge.

“That part def­i­nitely has to come down now. On the south side there’s a lit­tle bit more wig­gle room in terms of things we might be able to do — maybe make an art piece, maybe have a struc­ture that is like an out­look,” Fitzgib­bon said.

“There are pos­si­bil­i­ties and we’re work­ing on the premise that we’re go­ing to come up with some op­tions to po­ten­tially sal­vage por­tions for re-use.”

City coun­cil es­ti­mated in 2011 that it would cost $8 mil­lion to re­ha­bil­i­tate the bridge and $12 mil­lion in on­go­ing main­te­nance, which made it eco­nom­i­cally un­fea­si­ble.

Among pro­pos­als from res­i­dents, ar­chi­tect Gene Dub had pitched us­ing the space to build a café.

“It just didn’t make any sense in terms of the cost,” Fitzgib­bon said.

The city has not an­nounced the ex­act date for the open­ing of the new bridge.

kevin tuong/for metro

wal­terdale brIdge (orIg­I­nal) the do­min­ion bridge com­pany built the bridge in 1913 and named it af­ter John wal­ter, an early set­tler who used to run a ferry at the same spot. wal­terdale brIdge (new) con­struc­tion on the new bridge be­gan in early 2013 and was orig­i­nally slated to be com­pleted in late 2015. sev­eral de­lays later, the city ex­pects it to open to cars, bikes and pedes­tri­ans be­fore the end of the month.

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