A project that began on a sunny afternoon in October 2015 was officially opened to the public on a frosty December day in 2016.
Over the course of the 427 days since breaking ground a new Trail landmark emerged as the Columbia River Skywalk welcomed its first pedestrians Thursday afternoon.
And while dignitaries and officials from Trail, Warfield, Rossland and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) were on hand to cut the ribbon on the soft-opening of the $15-million bridge, the best reviews were left to approximately 200 people in attendance eager for their first trek across the 300-metre span.
After a couple of attempts at cutting the ribbon, the Trail Maple Leaf Band led the procession of pedestrians getting their first walk and view from the Skywalk.
There were plenty of oohs and ahhs as the buzz of the crowd continued during the crossing.
The weight of several hundred people crossing at once allowed the bridge to showcase its flexibility and, of course, the views. Some noted it felt a bit like walking on a wharf while others noted a nice view of downtown, Red Mountain and the Canadian flag painted on the Esplanade wall.
“The view is lovely,” said Trail native Ray Tenisci. “I used to always walk home across the Old Bridge so I’m just so happy to see this. I love the bounce. It’s supposed to have some give.”
Dan Rodlie, who’s tireless work with Trail Community in Bloom helped beautify the city, said this is another jewel for the community.
“It’s the best,” he said while braving the chilly temperatures crossing the bridge. “Now with the new library coming we’ll have plenty of movement down here.”
As for the bridge, Rodlie noted the gradual slope after cresting in the middle “it’s a good run for skateboarders.”
John Carter, 89, who ran in the 2011 municipal election with a platform to save the Old Bridge, looked over at the now-closed structure and chuckled.
“I could’ve saved a whole bunch of letters and just kept my mouth shut,” he joked.
He admitted to being very impressed with the new crossing.
“The tall towers at each end that support everything is just so awesome to see.”
Prior to the crossing, Trail Mayor Mike Martin, Warfield Mayor Ted Pahl, Rossland Councillor Lloyd McLellan and RDKB chair Grace McGregor gave brief speeches on the impact and partnership involved in the project.
Representatives from Graham Infrastructure LP and COWI (formerly the engineering firm Buckland and Taylor) noted the scale and scope of the project were great experiences for their respective companies.
Trail Mayor Mike Martin summed up his comments by saying the opening of the Skywalk was more than a simple bridge ceremony.
“It provides a real landmark for our community and one that enhances the beauty and accessibility of our city.”
For City of Trail engineer Warren Proulx, the ribbon cutting is the icing on the cake of his 39 years of working for the city. He has spent five years going over the bridge details and held off retiring until the project was completed. He explained that Thursday wasn’t actually his last day of work. He has some paperwork and training with his replacement to do over the next couple of months before walking off into retirement.
The city is putting together a video on the bridge construction that will be up for viewing on its website early in the new year.
Meanwhile another celebration is planned for the bridge with a grand opening in the works for Silver City Days in 2017.