A last chance to cross (on foot) Cornwall’s old North Channel Bridge

The old Cornwall bridge seen from the Cornwall Civic Complex. Photo: Lucy Martin

The old Cornwall bridge seen from the Cornwall Civic Complex. Photo: Lucy Martin

Weather permitting, Tuesday afternoon will be when “just folks” can take a last, up-close look at the old North Channel portion of the Seaway International Bridge in Cornwall, Ontario. (A new, low-level bridge was opened to traffic last January.)

According to this press release:

The Seaway International Bridge Corporation, Ltd. (SIBC) in collaboration with The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited (FBCL) invites all members of the community to walk the old North Channel Bridge and view the historical photos that will be set up on the bridge for the occasion.

This special community event will feature a brief commentary on the history of the old bridge, its replacement with the new North Channel Bridge and the planned demolition.

The public community event will take place on Tuesday July 8, 2014 from 2 pm to 8 pm weather permitting. The rain date is set for Wednesday July 9, from 2pm-8pm.

This is a pedestrian only event. Individuals who require a mobility aid will be permitted to access the bridge.

This week’s walk-about comes ahead of further work to tear down the 52-year-old North Channel Bridge. According to the Ottawa Citizen:

The project includes removal of the bridge deck, steel superstructure and some, but not all, concrete piers. The company estimates it will complete demolition by the end of June 2016.

It’s the third phase of four in the $75-million federally-funded project, announced in 2010.

It’s not every day bridges like this are opened for pedestrian use only. So on that level alone, it’s worth checking out. In addition, though, the Cornwall crossing has been – and continues to be – a source of acrimonious friction.

It’s tough to live smack on the border. Even more so if the original culture once had unfettered access to both sides of the river. As we all know, Canada and the U.S.A. have heightened security policies with an eye toward containing terrorism, smuggling and crime. But check points designed to address those broader concerns have a significant negative impact on ordinary life for area residents, be that Cornwall Island or places like Derby Line, Vermont.

NCPR’s David Sommerstein has covered that issue over the years. Back in 2010, that conflict was particularly fractious for residents of Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Mohawks and supporters crossing the old Cornwall bridge during the "Idle No More" march in January 2013. Photo: David Sommerstein

Mohawks and supporters crossing the old Cornwall bridge during the “Idle No More” march in January 2013. Photo: David Sommerstein

The opening of the new span in January of 2014 still failed to satisfy many local concerns. At that time NCPR reporting pointed out that crossing requirements create “a bottleneck“:

…Grand Chief Mitchell says it [the new bridge] does nothing to resolve that biggest problem – that Mohawks have to cross a bridge three times just to get home or to pick up the kids at school. He says if they don’t, even if they just stop on the Island to go to the bathroom because there’s a long wait on the bridge ahead, Canada will seize your car.

Canada’s growing Idle No More movement held a peaceful demonstration that crossed this bridge in January of last year to raise awareness of broader First Nation issues.

There are positives as well: the new bridge is credited with being shorter and far less expensive to maintain.

Meanwhile, this week’s special event remains a rare opportunity to walk the old North Channel Bridge before it is pieced out to the scrap heap.

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5 Comments on “A last chance to cross (on foot) Cornwall’s old North Channel Bridge”

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  1. Paul says:

    Would somebody really bother to do this? Talk about too much time on your hands!

  2. Steven says:

    Well Paul you see, some of us grew up crossing that bridge everyday. Be it to get groceries, go to work or visit our friends and family in Cornwall. The bridge closed and the new one opened quickly in the middle of winter meaning we didn’t all get to have our last chance to see the best views of the st. Lawrence you can get. That bridge has 52 years of memories and to not honor them would be sheer ignorance. So consider your time on our planet and ask yourself is 30 minutes of honoring those 52 years really “too much time on your hands”?

  3. Lucy Martin says:

    It’s true, walking bridges isn’t everyone’s thing. But more and more bridges now prohibit walking or cycling across the span, so these opportunity are becoming more precious.

    I have fond memories of walking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Thousand Islands Bridge and one of the bridges across the Niagara River (can’t remember the name, but I think that’s now forbidden.) Plus some of the bridges here in Ottawa.

    Amazing views, better seen on foot than by car. And then there’s the sense of community by doing that with like-minded neighbors who are also there to say good-bye. It sounds like a nice outing for anyone so inclined.

  4. Scott Miller says:

    I walked the bridge Tuesday evening and had a wonderful experience. The view upstream offered me a different perspective of an area I regularly fish and the view downstream was just lovely. Unless you can fly over the river, you can’t see it that way.

    There were all sorts of people enjoying the evening. I wasn’t expecting so many; families, elderly, teens, etc. The SIBC staff was there controlling traffic, distributing water and historical information about the bridge. Many thanks to them. It was a really sweet scene and, thankfully, the storm held off until closing time – it would have been a little too interesting up there when that hit.

  5. Pat says:

    Wonderful experience! So glad that we had this opportunity to stroll over the Cornwall bridge on a lovely, sunny summer day. So many trips over it were on blustery winter days. Too bad this couldn’t have been expanded to include a few more days. We have enjoyed walking across the Hudson River. https://www.walkway.org/
    It’s sad that more outmoded bridges couldn’t organize to create this kind of linear park.

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