It was a soft opening in more ways than one as the City of Williams Lake marked the official opening of the new bridge that connects the RC Cotton Trail to Scout Island.
Despite the muck caused by the warm weather members of Williams Lake City Council, the local contractors who built the bridge, the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and members of the public gathered just before noon to commemorate this important moment. From here on out the as of yet unnamed bridge will be open for the public to use, after close to four months since its installation in November.
This 200-foot pedestrian bridge along with the 700-metre RC Cotton trail gets the city one step closer to their goals set out in the Parks, Trails and Outdoor Recreation Master plan. This series of projects will eventually give the lakecity an uninterrupted trail system from Scout Island to the Fraser River, something Mayor Walt Cobb was sure to highlight at the opening.
“This bridge is a landmark project for the City and along with the new RC Cotton trail greatly adds to the trail options which we know our residents have asked for here in Williams Lake. The bridge, which I’m proud to say was built with local labour and local resources, is the first step in completing a 15 k.m. trail from the Fraser River to the shores of Williams Lake on Scout Island,” Cobb said.
”The next step is the boardwalk project over Williams Creek for which the City has already obtained some grants and applied for others. ”
This bridge was made possible through grants obtained from the Rural Dividend program of BC and the Canada Recreation Program grant. As such 83% of the project funding came from government grants with the remainder from the City of Williams Lake.
Coun. Scott Nelson, who has been a big advocate for this project, was visibly delighted to see the bridge officially open for lakecity foot traffic. He considers the soft opening an exciting day for the lakecity as it has helped tie the trail systems currently available around the lake together. Nelson confirmed the grand opening of the bridge, where it will receive one of three Secwepemc names council is deciding between, will happen around May for the whole community.
“We just wanted to get the bridge opened up. I know the community is eager to start walking it and it’s now open to the public seven days a week and it’s just a fantastic opportunity for walking through our community,” Nelson said. “It just goes to show the community spirit in Williams Lake. When we want to get something done, we hustle up and get it done.”
Nelson really would like to thank the local contractors who put the bridge together including Beamac Installations Ltd and many others.
Many of those contractors were on-site including Andrew Nairn with Beamac Installations who were in charge of fabricating, welding and riveting the steel potions of the bridge, which is their biggest bridge project to date he said. As the site was so close to their shop, they ended doing a lot of work on the RC Cotton side of the bridge which was nice, he said.
“Our entire crew worked on the bridge, even the ladies in the office did some work in the end. Everyone took a lot of pride in it, if you look at the welding they went above and beyond to make sure that it was all really well done because we know it’s going to be here for a long time,” Nairn said.
Nairn said he personally takes great pride in this project as he has two young children who always want to see the bridge when they come to Scout Island now. He’s hopeful that, in 50 to 60 years, they’ll be telling their kids and grandkids that Nairn worked on the bridge.
The bridge was a welcome sight for community member Lauren Bernard, who hiked out with family and friends to attend the opening. Bernard is a human resources worker at Gibraltar who moved to the lakecity from Calgary three years ago and settled within walking distance of Scout Island.
“When we saw the bridge was going to be built we were really excited because we can actually do a full loop now from our house, it’s just fantastic we’re really excited to see it complete,” Bernard said.
She thinks families and old people will enjoy accessing and using it, especially because the bridge allows people to get a different view of Williams Lake as a whole. In the future, Bernard looks forward to seeing what type of recreation opportunities can be developed on the RC Cotton side of the bridge and hopes to see more trails be built around the lake.
Later this year, to complete the works, the City will make improvements to the Butterfly Trail on Scout Island, install additional fencing and complete some landscaping on both sides of the bridge.
The City would like to thank the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and relevant Provincial Agencies for their support through ongoing dialogue and partnership as they worked to bring this new recreation facility to the residents and visitors of Williams Lake.