BANFF – A new $5.5 million pedestrian bridge across the Bow River in Banff aims to encourage people to get out of their cars and to walk and bike instead.
On Sept. 6, about 350 people attended the opening of the new Nancy Pauw pedestrian bridge, which connects Central Park to the Banff recreational grounds.
Town of Banff officials say the wooden bridge will provide a convenient and environmentally friendly route between Banff’s downtown and residential neighbourhoods on the south side of the Bow River.
“We are thrilled this long-awaited bridge will now provide a safe route for year-round commuters, while helping to take vehicles off the roads,” said Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.
“By using the bridge, visitors and residents will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, maintaining our clean mountain air, and promoting active lifestyles.”
The new bridge honours the legacy of local philanthropist Nancy Pauw, who passed away in 2018 after a long battle with cancer.
The $5.5 million price tag for the bridge was covered by $2.5 million Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation, $2.2 million from the federal government and $800,000 from the Town of Banff.
The municipality estimates the bridge will see 5,000-8,000 crossings a day during the busy summer months.
Treffrey Deerfoot, Blackfoot Elder and ceremonialist from Siksika Nation and the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy, made comments and gave a blessing.
“It is my great honour on behalf of my ancestors – this used to be their winter campground – we used to congregate along with the animals that you see almost on a daily basis here,” Deerfoot said.
“I am honoured to be here and shed light on this beautiful bridge. I spent a little bit of time and I burned my incense and I said a prayer all the way across and all the way back.”
Senator Karen Sorensen, who has been a driving force for public transit and active modes of transportation in Banff, said a Central Park pedestrian bridge has been considered an important project as far back as 1914.
A former councillor and mayor of Banff, Sorensen said she has been fortunate to witness the growth of pedestrian walkways and the priority placed on walking and cycling in Banff.
“Today’s event has been, literally, decades in the making,” said Senator Sorensen, who cut the ribbon on Banff’s first pedestrian bridge between Muskrat Street and Glen Avenue in 2013.
“This new bridge helps connect the last mile for the people on the trail network, but also the network of Roam routes that can take you to every major attraction in Banff National Park.”
The Pauw foundation’s $2.5 million donation is its first contribution to an infrastructure project, adding to the organization’s investment of more than $1 million each year this decade in support of Bow Valley community programs.
“The bridge celebrates Nancy and her passionate support of active lifestyles and human-powered adventures, whether cycling, walking, running, climbing, or paddling,” said Cathy Geisler, executive director of the Wim andNancy Pauw Foundation, in a news release.
“We are fortunate that Wim has chosen to donate the profits earned from his successful hospitality venture at the Banff Lodging Company, towards programs and resources that benefit the visitors and people in our community.”
Banff Elementary School, seniors and Community Cruisers, the Banff Canoe Club, Community Greenhouse Society, and members of the business and tourism industry also participated in opening ceremony for the bridge.
The installation of lighting on the bridge rail will be completed by the end of this week. The Town of Banff is waiting for approval from Parks Canada to turn on the lighting.
“We will install lighting on the trail leading up to the bridge after Parks Canada provides approval,” according to a news release from the Town of Banff.
“We opened the bridge before all the lighting and landscaping was complete due to the demand for the bridge and to make available the fully functional crossing during the daylight,” it added.
“People who are uncomfortable crossing at night are encouraged to continue using the other two crossings until the new lighting is installed and approved.”