Calgary·Q&A

Costly plunge: Canmore bridge jumpers face $500 fine

Is it the end of a way of life or just sensible municipal risk management? Perhaps, in Canmore — a town "too big to be small" that's also "too small to be big" — the announcement of a ban on jumping off the Engine Bridge is both.

'For a lot of people, jumping from the Engine Bridge was one of those things you did as a kid'

The Engine Bridge in Canmore. This truss structure replaced the original, a crossing made of wood that was destroyed by a fire in 1919. (Tanya Foubert)

A new bylaw passed by Canmore council this month means that residents who participate in one of the town's longest standing traditions — jumping off the historic Engine Bridge into the Bow River on hot summer days — face the threat of a $500 fine.

It's a pedestrian bridge that was originally part of a railway spur line that served Canmore's coal mine a century ago.

Rocky Mountain Outlook editor Tanya Foubert, a longtime Canmore resident, spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday about how the bridge jumping ban is going over with residents.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Tell me about this new rule, what you think about it.

A: It's an updated bylaw passed by council at the beginning of the month that replaces a previous bylaw. I do believe that within the perspective of the municipality, jumping from this bridge has been frowned upon or somewhat discouraged in the past. But with the new bylaw, it really sets it out in plain English: You can't jump from this bridge, and if you do, you could face a fine of up to $500.

So we are definitely seeing some reaction in the community about this change.

Q: Is it about the $500 fine or just the prohibition?

A: In Canmore, a lot of things have changed, even in the last 10 years, let alone the last 40.

Growing up here, for a lot of people, jumping from the Engine Bridge was one of those things you did as a kid. It was one of those rituals of childhood and summer. And with change, it feels as if our past is diminished or we're not allowed to do the same things we used to do — that the community isn't the same place that it used to be. It's just that feeling of nostalgia for the way things were and perhaps a simpler time, when you could jump from the bridge and into the nice cool water on a hot summer's day.

Rocky Mountain Outlook editor Tanya Foubert. (Rocky Mountain Outlook)

Q: It is not just the bridge that falls under this new rule, but is it your sense that it's really the bridge that the rule was about?

A: The way the wording is phrased, there wouldn't be any other town infrastructure you could jump or rappel from.

Q: Has anyone ever been hurt?

A: There is at least one instance in the past that I can think of, from covering the news here in town. But I think that that instance involved other layers of risk — risky behavior like alcohol and drugs and perhaps jumping into the river at night.

Q: You can understand why a community would want to err on the side of caution, right? Obviously this rule did did not come out of nowhere. There had to have been some discussion and presumably one would think some consensus?

A: Yeah, definitely they took a risk management approach. One of the things I've been saying about Canmore, in the last five years, is we're too big to be small and too small to be big. 

We, as a municipality or administration, are growing. With the size of our community, you see additional resources being put into looking into perhaps unaddressed issues. Risk management around town on infrastructure and assets definitely could be one of those.

And it's not the only spot that's kind of one of those fun summer water jumping spots. There's also a cliff at Quarry Lake Park, which a lot of people jump into.

Obviously it's a former open pit mine, so you don't have to worry about how deep it is. But then again, if you don't know how to swim, you have to worry about how deep it is. So they've definitely gone after that as well. It's sort of been identifying things that they don't want people to do that could put them at risk and having them recognize that there is a liability.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca

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