New Tawatinâ Bridge reconnects 2 communities over North Saskatchewan River

After five years of construction, the Tawatinâ pedestrian bridge opened to the public on Sunday.

'I have to say, the artwork and the thought that's gone into it, it's quite beautiful'

Residents of Cloverdale and Riverdale celebrated the new Tawatinâ Pedestrian Bridge on Sunday. The bridge opened to the public after five years of construction. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC Edmonton)

To some pomp and circumstance, including drumming and a marching band, the Tawatinâ Bridge opened to the public on a chilly Sunday afternoon connecting the Edmonton neighbourhoods Riverdale and Cloverdale once again. 

Nearly 100 residents from the neighbourhoods, separated for five years after the old bridge was demolished, showed up to check out the new LRT/pedestrian link.

Olivia Soukup, a Riverdale resident, told CBC's Edmonton AM some of her most cherished memories are attached to the old bridge. 

"As a teenager, I used to trundle across this bridge to go to the Folk Fest and stumble home," she said on Sunday, her voice cracking.

"I just have such great memories of coming down here and looking at the view and and just the peace and the quiet."

Residents of the neighbourhoods were vocal in their opposition to the demolition of their beloved Cloverdale Bridge. Between 2014 and 2016, residents pushed back against the city, even organizing a protest where residents held hands across the bridge.

But once the bridge was demolished, the long wait for the new one began. Construction was delayed when crews hit a large concrete mass in the river in 2018. 

Soukup said she worried that with LRT trains running overhead, the new bridge would not hold a candle to the old one. But on Sunday, looking at the familiar view of the North Saskatchewan River, she was content with what she saw.

"I have to say, the artwork and the thought that's gone into it, it's quite beautiful," she said.

Other residents were excited about finally reconnecting with their neighbours. 

"We really felt isolated," said Danny Hoyt, past president of the Riverdale Community League. 

He hopes the bridge will restore the link not only for humans but also wildlife of the area. 

"We've had coyotes nesting in Riverdale that would normally have transit across here. So it's an animal corridor as well," he said.

The more than 500 paintings on the Tawatinâ Bridge are the work of Métis artist David Garneau. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC Edmonton)

The ceiling of the footbridge is filled with more than 500 works of colourful Indigenous art. 

Métis artist David Garneau said he originally thought 100 paintings would be enough, but when looking at what the bridge means to the area, realized he would have to do many more. 

"It's really bridging two sides, two cultures, but it's also a space in between," Garneau said. "There's a lot of nature, a lot of First Nations made history here, but it's all in fragments. 

"To me, there are pictures and storytellers have to come and knit them together to explain what the meanings are." 

LRT trains will start using the bridge on the 13-kilometre Southeast Valley Line linking Mill Woods to downtown sometime next year.

With files from Pippa Reed


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