Preserving memories: Advocates hope old Walterdale bridge won't be forgotten
New Walterdale crossing set to open by end of the month
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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” open-grate 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.