Restoration work has begun on the historic Alexandra Bridge.
Partners in the project gathered at the bridge Wednesday (July 13) for a celebration that included the cutting of a cedar ribbon.
“We welcome all the guests, partners and supporters into our territory to celebrate the first steps being taken to restore the 1926 Alexandra Bridge,” said Spuzzum First Nation Chief James Hobart in a news release. “This beautiful structure was built at a natural crossing point that has been used by Indigenous peoples for millennia to connect the coast and the interior.
“It’s the peak of an historic iceberg that goes back to time immemorial.”
Built in 1926 in the traditional territory of the Spuzzum First Nation, Alexandra Bridge rests on the foundations of the original Cariboo Waggon Road bridge that was constructed in 1863 near the ancient village of Kequelose, a traditional crossing point on the Fraser River.
It was decommissioned in 1964 after the construction of the new Alexandra Bridge, two kilometres downstream.
Since 2009, Spuzzum First Nation and the New Pathways to Gold Society (NPTGS) have led a coalition dedicating to preserving the structure. Other partners include B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), BC Parks, BC Heritage Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Development, CN and HeritageWorks.
Restoration work is being funded by the Community Economic Resiliency Infrastructure Program, which provided $500,000.
MOTI is contributing an additional $400,000.
The gathering offered a chance to see work done by Heritage Masonry that has helped determine how best to repair the concrete in the support towers, and other bridge elements such as railings.
“This is just the first step of what will likely be a three to five-year project,” said NPTGS secretary Byron Spinks. “The longer-term goal is to restore the structure to a pedestrian bridge that will provide visitors with an unforgettable experience of the Fraser Canyon in the traditional territory of the SFN.”
Chief Hobart, who is also a NPTGS director, said the rehabilitation of Alexandra Bridge is key to unlocking the economic potential of the Lower Canyon for his people.
“We’re developing a campsite, a convention centre, new housing and other amenities that we hope will make the Spuzzum First Nation the Canyon’s largest employer, and the restored 1926 Alexandra Bridge is going to be at the heart of all of it,” he suggested.
The bridge restoration may also create opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities throughout the Hope-Barkerville ‘Gold Rush/Spirit Trails’ corridor.
“We want the 1926 Alexandra Bridge at Kequelose to be what it always has been for millennia – a gateway between the coast and the interior that will attract visitors and encourage them to keep going and explore the rest of the Gold Rush/Spirit Trails,” said NPTGS Indigenous co-chair Cheryl Chapman. “There are hundreds of incredible Indigenous, non-Indigenous and multicultural experiences to be had in what is the most culturally and geographically diverse corridor in all of B.C.”
Find project updates online at newpathwaystogold.ca.