Friday, August 28, 2015

Unity Bridge Grand Opening

Over 100 people celebrated with the Kaslo Trailblazers Society (KTS) on Sunday, August 23, 2015 as the new Unity Bridge was officially opened. Donor flags from around the world decorated the bridge, representing 8 Canadian provinces, 3 USA states, and 14 different countries, making this truly a bridge that unifies both sides of the Kaslo River trail loop, and Kaslo with the World. 

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Cutting the celebratory ribbon left to right were Kellie Knoll (Village of Kaslo), Linda Lafleur (Columbia Basin Trust), Aimee Watson (Regional District of Central Kootenay), and Val Koenig (President, KTS).
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Major donors and volunteers were awarded plaques featuring a Unity Bridge photo by Anne Gray (all photos in this post courtesy Anne Gray).

In his speech to the audience, President Val Koenig gave a brief history of the Kaslo River Trail development. Following several "goat trails" and pre-built walking trails along the Kaslo River, in 2003 several Kaslo citizens worked on building trail and forming the Kaslo Trailblazers Society, established in 2005. This group had the vision to create a wheelchair accessible trail, a loop trail on both sides of Kaslo River, and two bridges spanning the river. In autumn 2007 the first "red" pedestrian bridge, now known as the Kaslo Trailblazers Bridge, was built for $149,000 across Kaslo River just below the old hydro-electric dam site.

Kaslo Trailblazers Bridge in winter
Following the 2008 economic recession, it took the KTS another 8 years to accumulate enough funds to build the Unity Bridge (almost -  we are still a little short!) -  a130 ft. single arch span, 100,000 pound bridge, following the same basic design as the first (this one is a 18' longer and a 2' arch vs a 4' arch), including the beautiful red colour.

Kaslo Unity Bridge in summer
Volunteers built both bridges!  In 2015, over 77 volunteers and local businesses contributed over 1500 hours to prepare and construct the bridge. Not including "in kind" donations, many additional hours were spent fundraising over $400,000 over the last 10 years to pay for materials and machine time. Its quite an accomplishment for our small village!

The Kaslo Trailblazers Society extend our gratitude and thanks to the over 160 KTS members, local businesses, donors, volunteers, contributors, Village of Kaslo work crew, and all others who helped to fulfill the original 2003 vision for trails in Kaslo.