It was a chance to walk the new Vedder Bridge from end to end.
The bridge span was opened for a few short hours on Thursday and it allowed thousands of people the first up-close look at the new $12.5 million structure.
City of Chilliwack hosted its Hello-Goodbye Vedder Bridge event, with a ribbon-cutting, free barbecue, live entertainment, kids activities, history displays and more.
“This is an absolutely historic moment for the City of Chilliwack,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz, recalling the arm-wrestling and back-and-forth that it took to get the new bridge built.
“We did make it happen,” she said. “It was a beautiful thing.”
All three levels of government each contributed $4 million dollars to the project, Gaetz told the huge crowd gathered on the bridge, “which is the largest joint project ever funded for City of Chilliwack.”
The two-lane steel-arch bridge has wider shoulders and two multi-use pathways for pedestrian and cyclists.
“It will provide a safe and comfortable connection to the Vedder-Rotary, and will be part of the Trans Canada Trail,” the mayor noted.
She acknowledged the dignitaries present, and thanked everyone who smoothed the way for the project to get underway, include Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl.
Chief Dave Jimmie, president of Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe, and chief of Squiala First Nation, said it was his honour to welcome everyone to the territory.
He sympathized with the frustration of motorists who’ve been fighting traffic as they tried to get up to Cultus Lake or Soowahlie.
“So I’m excited as well to be able to share in experiencing the new bridge opening,” he said.
Chief Jimmie also told a story about Captain John Soowahlie, who was a chief of Soowahlie in the late 1800s, who designed the first bridge at that site, and created a ferry service.
“He was definitely ahead of his time. Someone who was part of and instrumental in designing a bridge, using what they had at the time, was quite impressive.”
Jimmie underlined that it’s important to acknowledge those who historically have helped to see everyone move forward.
“As the mayor had mentioned I am very much about building bridges, very much about seeing how relationships can be nurtured, and how we can forget about some of the old history that haunts us sometimes. Coming and being a part of ceremonies and different events like this and having our culture recognized in these types of events has a lot of importance to me.”
Commemorative paddles were handed out to allow people to witness the Hello-Goodbye celebration, and share the experience.
Paving to connect the bridge will begin on Sunday night, and continue for three consecutive nights, from 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. causing potential delays and requiring a modicum of patience for motorists.
“Shortly after the paving is completed, we will be open to vehicular traffic,” the mayor said.