Bridge removal will cut connection to Kishwoot

Kishwoot Island will soon be inaccessible. Six months ago, Kishwoot Island got a makeover, and the dilapidated bridge connecting Shipyards Park to the island was set to be refurbished.

Kishwoot Island will soon be inaccessible.

Six months ago, Kishwoot Island got a makeover, and the dilapidated bridge connecting Shipyards Park to the island was set to be refurbished. There was even talk of creating a park and a restaurant with a patio on the island.

Now, the future of the island is murky.

In March, the Yukon government will tear down the Kishwoot bridge, which has long been considered a safety hazard.

Built in the mid ‘80s as part of a training exercise for the Department of National Defence, the bride has fallen into disrepair over the years.

The lopsided suspension bridge sports broken planks of wood and one side of the overpass was charred when a fire was set near it late last summer.

A large sign with red lettering blocks pedestrians from crossing onto Kishwoot Island.

In 2006, the Yukon government received $19 million from the federal government to rebuild waterfront properties in Carcross and Whitehorse.

Of that money, $385,000 was earmarked for the reconstruction of the Kishwoot bridge.

Now, some of that funding will be used, to tear it down.

“The original plan, in 2004, was to rebuild that bridge,” said Community Services spokesperson Matt King.

“Since then, the plans and vision and people involved in the project have changed.”

Recently, the city’s 30-year lease on the island expired. Now,

the Yukon government is in the process of transferring the land over to the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.

In June, the Ta’an was waiting for the city to clean up the island and the territory to reconstruct the bridge before officially having its traditional land transferred.

That was when then chief Ruth Massie said she wanted to see the bridge rebuilt and the island kept “park-like, so that people can enjoy it.”

During Ta’an Kwach’an community meetings, people suggested creating a picnic area, a gift shop or a restaurant with a patio on the island.

One person even suggested opening a casino, an idea that was quickly dismissed.

In August, the city kept true to its promise of cleaning up the island, removing abandoned tires, shopping carts and left-over tents.

But in the fall, representatives from the Ta’an Kwach’an Council met with both governments and said they wanted to see the bridge removed, citing it as a safety hazard.

But the bridge has been considered a safety hazard since 2004, when the city commissioned a structural assessment.

By that time the Ta’an decided to trash the bridge, $185,000 had been siphoned away from the Kishwoot project to other waterfront projects, leaving only $200,000 left in the bank.

And that amount wouldn’t have been enough to rebuild the bridge, a cost pegged at $285,000. So even if the Ta’an had wanted to salvage the structure, it may not have been able to afford it.

However, safety was still given as the reason to remove the bridge.

This month, the territorial government put forward a proposal to the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Board to remove the bridge.

If the proposal goes ahead as planned, the bridge will be decommissioned in late March when there is still ice cover on that part of the river.

It is also the last month the territory will be able to access the Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Funding from Ottawa. After March, that money will dry up.

“The cost of the demolition is still not known,” said King, explaining the government won’t know until it tenders the project on March 31st.

As for what will happen to the island once the bridge is removed, no one seems to know, said Doug Hnatiuk, projects and community development co-ordinator for the city.

“The Ta’an have kept their cards close to their chest,” he said.

In late summer, when the city and some members of the Ta’an helped clean up the island, the Ta’an were asked by local media whether they were going to build a park or a restaurant there.

“That was when a Ta’an Kwach’an council member said, ‘It’s still too early to tell,’” said Hnatiuk,

“The Ta’an council is still considering the issue.

“Maybe (earlier plans for the island) were just wishful thinking on their part.”

The land representative from the Ta’an Kwach’an Council could not be reached for comment.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com