Chief William Commanda Bridge reopens for season 

Wooden blanks on the bridge surface.
Outdoor enthusiasts are hopeful the Chief William Commanda Bridge will remain open year-round. File photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack 

After being closed for use this winter, the Chief William Commanda Bridge reopened to cyclists and pedestrians. 

Gates went up at the pedestrian bridge entrance points in November, despite the city branding it as a multi-seasonal attraction when construction started. Officials had planned to look at the bridge this winter to see if it could one day be used for winter activities. However, that never fully happened.  

Due to a mild winter with little snow accumulation, city staff said in a memo to council the feasibility was unable to accurately be assessed. 

“Staff will continue to explore the potential for winter use of the bridge and will provide Council with an update,” wrote Dan Chenier, general manager of the Recreation, Cultural, and Facility Services department. 

A decision to keep the bridge open year-round cannot come soon enough. The Kichi Sibi Winter Trail is hoping to incorporate it into their grooming operations.

Plans are also underway to open a winter trail on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. That could happen as early as next season. Dave Adams, groomer of the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail, said he’s hopeful the bridge can connect the two communities through the colder season. 

“Judging by the words that they used, I’m a little bit concerned that they may not open the bridge for next winter either,” said Adams. 

In his memo to council, Chenier noted the bridge was not designed for plowing, salt or grip operations. Adams said that shouldn’t matter. At least 15 centimeters of snow is needed before grooming operations can start. 

“The equipment we have is not what they have in Gatineau Park. We are using lightweight equipment,” he said. “It’s not killing snow, it’s just drafting a large object over it. We would not damage the bridge.” 

It’s been a tough season for the winter trail. Adams said it was their worst season on record. Only about 50 grooming days occurred this year compared to 100 last year — a record. 

Looking ahead to next winter, Adams is hopeful for their best season yet. 

“We are seeing a lot of projects getting close to concluding. Potentially we will have Westboro Beach back, the Churchill underpass ready, and with a little bit of pressure, hopefully they will reconsider the Chief William Commanda Bridge staying open,” said Adams. 

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