Officials turned away from Ross River bridge

A group of citizens are doing their best to stop the demolition of the Ross River footbridge. About 30 people spent yesterday on the frozen Pelly River and turned away engineers.

A group of citizens are doing their best to stop the demolition of the Ross River footbridge.

About 30 people spent yesterday on the frozen Pelly River and turned away engineers looking to test the ice thickness before bringing on equipment, said resident Kitty Sperling.

“They asked respectfully if they could come on and they were respectfully denied access to the ice,” she said.

The bridge, which dates back to 1944, is slated to be taken down by the end of the month.

It has been in disrepair for quite some time. Inspection reports on the bridge date back to 1979.

An engineering report from September found that the footbridge over the river is at risk of imminent collapse and poses a threat to human safety.

But many community members maintain the structure should be restored and saved.

“For me that’s what it’s been about from the beginning, public awareness. I don’t think anybody knew really what the significance of the bridge was,” said Sperling, who has started a Facebook group to promote the cause.

The bridge was constructed by the U.S. Army to carry an oil pipeline over the river. It was never intended as a permanent structure, and never intended as a pedestrian bridge.

Sperling said the group plans on maintaining a presence on the ice for as long as necessary.

Yesterday’s event included making bannock and stew and talking around a campfire, she said.

More activities on the ice are planned for this weekend.

“We are inviting anyone who wants to come to celebrate and honour the suspension bridge,” she said.

“(People can) bring their tents and hang out on the ice and participate in some hockey and some curling and have a really nice time.”

They want to send the message that the bridge is an important heritage structure, she said.

Community Services deputy minister Harvey Brooks said having people on the ice is an obvious obstacle.

“It’s a difficulty for the project of course,” he said. “When one is doing something this unique and potentially dangerous it’s important to have a very secure and well regulated work area.”

Officials from his department, along with the contractor, were able to do some visual inspections yesterday but did not go on the ice, Brooks said.

He maintains that the bridge is a hazard that needs to come down for safety reasons, even if only temporarily.

“We have engineering reports that say that the bridge has dangerous elements and we are trying to remove those dangerous elements before we can assess whether or not the bridge can safely be repaired.”

After the bridge deck is off, the government will be issuing a request for proposals to have all the pieces assessed “to see whether or not the bridge can be safely repaired to a structural standard and the cost of doing that,” Brooks said.

“We’ve always said we weren’t making any final decisions with regards to the bridge, but before we could do that we were essentially duty bound for public and workers’ safety to remove the dangerous elements.”

As for what will happen if people stay on the ice, Brooks said he wouldn’t speak to that.

“It’s safest to remove the dangerous elements while there is ice under the bridge, that’s clear. To that extent we will endeavour to do that over the next number of weeks while there’s still good winter ice under the bridge.”

With files from Jacqueline Ronson

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities