The suspension bridge in Ross River was reopened Friday after five years of being out of commission.
Community Services Minister John Streicker was joined by Ross River Dena Council Chief Jack Caesar at a celebration of the reopening, along with Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.
“The bridge was deteriorating; it was just aging out,” Streicker told the Star Friday afternoon.
Noting that it had originally been built to support the Second World War-era Canol pipeline, he said that it eventually came to be used by pedestrians after its lifespan. It connects the village site to the North Canol Road.
Streicker added that preserving the fixture may have been nice, it just wasn’t doable.
“You couldn’t just salvage it; you had to replace the thing,” he said, adding, “so that was a hard choice for us.”
While some of the original structure may still be in place, it was more of a “replication of the design,” he said.
“So I wouldn’t call this a heritage project,” the minister added.
The repairs were paid for by the federal and territorial governments.
A release on the reopening noted that most of the money, more than $3 million, came from Ottawa, while Yukon put up more than $1 million for the 319-metre-long-bridge.
The funds were put toward installations of anchors, decking, chain link fencing and cables, among other things.
Stabilizing the bridge’s two towers was also a concern, especially because it rested over the 530-kilometre-long Pelly River.
That made up phase one of the repairs, and came with a $1.5-million pricetag.
The second phase included the design and other repairs, and cost $4.3 million.
Built in the 1940s to allow access to hunting grounds and camps on the other side of Pelly, the bridge grew problematic in 2013 when it was declared too dangerous to use.
Cabling was put in to prevent the bridge from moving and swaying as much, which improved the “beefiness” of the bridge, added Streicker.
“Old decking was two-inch thick material; this is three-inch thick material,” he said.
Bagnell likened it to a “rehabilitated suspension bridge” in the release, which would in turn “improve the quality of life of residents.”
Some of those residents rallied at a protest in 2014 calling on the government to save the historic bridge.
Streicker added he was happy to see the 75-year-old site link back after years of work.
“It connected the community from one side to the other physically, but also from the history to the future,” he said, noting the relationship between elders and kids is especially significant in some cultures.
The bridge is also the only thing that allows access between the two areas during freeze-up.
The release noted that all work was completed early last month.
“We are very pleased to celebrate the reopening of the suspension bridge,” said Caesar.
“We thank the governments of Canada and Yukon for their funding to complete these long-awaited infrastructure repairs.”