The City of Airdrie is in the process of fully restoring its first Municipal Historic Resource (MHR), the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators, and incorporating it into a pathway system for residents and visitors to take advantage of.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring this piece of history back to life and allow the community to really enjoy and use the bridge,” said Michael Dougherty, team leader for Community Development.
After years of deliberation over the bridge’s future, Dougherty said Airdrie City council voted to designate it as the city’s first MHR in July 2019. The current restoration project was planned to begin shortly thereafter, but was delayed and “didn’t really get off the ground until this year,” he said.
“We have had folks on site, doing work and doing evaluations as early as this time last year in preparation for the restoration work,” he added.
Once complete, Dougherty said the restored bridge will become part of a pathway system that connects to The Great Trail, a series of trails that extends across Canada.
“The idea is to bring this back to its 1928 look and form and turn it into a pedestrian bridge, and then connect The [Great Trail] to this bridge,” Dougherty said. “Currently, The Great Trail comes up along the creek and continues down along the sidewalk. We’ll be bringing it over, crossing the bridge up to Edwards Way and out that way back to The [Great] Trail.”
Along the paths, Dougherty said, the City will install benches and plants, as well as interpretive plaques and signage telling the story of the bridge, which was originally constructed to provide access to Airdrie’s grain elevators and now points to the community’s history as an agrarian railway town.
“This is historic preservation at its best,” Dougherty said. “It’s not saying that this is this artifact that we look at under glass [and] we don’t use. This is saying that this is a piece of Airdrie’s history, but also a piece of our present and our future.”
Restoring and preserving the bridge was a way for the City to demonstrate that preserving Airdrie’s heritage is a priority, Dougherty said, adding the City is aware of the need to protect local historic sites. Based on the results of a 2018 Cultural Needs Assessment, he said there is an appetite in the community to see historical resources protected.
“There was a real sense that Airdrie had lost just about everything,” he said. “I think a lot of that stems from the Old Hotel coming down 10 years ago.”
Historic resources provide a sense of culture, identity and character to a community, he said, and losing those resources contributes to a loss of community identity. The fact that many of Airdrie’s historic buildings are already gone increases the urgency of preserving what does remain.
“The less you have of your inheritance, the more you want to retain your inheritance,” he said.
A grand opening for the restored bridge and new pathways was originally intended to take place some time this summer, Dougherty said, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left the timeline for the project in a state of flux. While no firm plans for an unveiling are currently in place, he added the City is hopeful something will occur in 2020.
- With files from Jessi Gowan