A new bridge in the Wakamow Valley will now connect the main pathway and allow outdoor enthusiasts to traverse the valley from one end to the other.
Maintenance workers with the Wakamow Valley Authority (WVA) put the finishing touches on a low-level crossing bridge at the bottom of Fourth Avenue South on May 14. They completed the installation of the bridge’s wooden decking and spread crusher dust at either end of the span to create a path.
With the bridge completed, it will be ready for people to use this long weekend.
This project began more than three years ago when planners created designs for a new walking bridge across the Moose Jaw River to replace an older metal bridge, explained Todd Johnson, general manager of WVA. The WVA brought in a crane last October to remove that metal bridge span, while it then installed several cement culverts downstream in preparation for the new bridge just before winter arrived.
A small portion of the new bridge had to be rebuilt during the winter since some of the culverts had tilted downward, so Johnson believes the new design should work.
“I’m very excited for (the new bridge) because it joins the park so well. You can go from Ninth Avenue (West) all the way down to … Kiwanis Park (the skating oval). The usage now, it gives people the opportunity to explore our park.”
For reference, Johnson pointed out that the old Valley View Centre property is south of the new bridge, while to the west is the Seventh Avenue West bridge and the path that leads from the former Wild Animal Park. This means users can start at the valley entrance at Ninth Avenue West and move east until they reach the suspension bridge in the park.
The Wakamow Valley has become a popular place to walk during the pandemic since the area allows users to get a breath of fresh air, said Johnson. But while there are 20 kilometres of pathways, users might not see anyone during a walk or run.
The WVA can usually estimate how many people use the park based on rentals and events. However, it can’t say how many people have used the area during the coronavirus, especially since there are so many entrances, he continued. However, its best guess is that the volume of people using the trails and kayaking on the river has increased four-fold.
One thing Johnson has noticed is, even with the increased use, people are still practising physical distancing. They have been mindful of the two-metre distance rule and have worked to keep others safe. Also, the WVA office has not received any complaints of off-leash dogs causing trouble.
“It’s a pretty great area. The flow is not too high,” he added. “There are some beavers in the area (as well), so that is a little bit of Mother Nature.”
The construction of a new walking bridge was a big project, which means the WVA used some of the $329,612 in municipal funding it receives to complete this initiative, said Johnson. While the authority attempts to generate revenue, he pointed out the City of Moose Jaw has been fantastic in supporting the organization and they have had a great relationship.
Another project the authority plans to pursue this fall is the addition of nine more disc golf holes to provide a full 18 holes. The game is free to play and the authority intends to run how-to-play seminars in the fall.
“We just want everyone to be safe and social distancing,” Johnson added. “Come out and enjoy the park, get your fresh air, just be mindful of each other.”