By Dan Rankin
The ribbon was cut on Water Street’s renovated ‘Green bridge’ under sunny skies on Sunday, Nov. 27. The future of the 118-year-old structure was rung in with some old-fashioned symbols from its past, including a horse-drawn wagon and bagpipe music provided by Les Brunton.
“St. Marys is a special place where we have been left an incredible legacy,” said Mayor Al Strathdee in a speech prior to the ribbon-cutting. Strathdee, like Brunton, was decked out in a kilt for the occasion. “The Green Bridge is part of this legacy, it’s an important part of St. Marys and part of who we are.
The re-opening and rehabilitation of the bridge was one of the platforms Strathdee campaigned on in his drive to become mayor two years ago. “I was very fortunate the community supported this vision of revitalizing the bridge,” he said, comparing the project to those undertaken by the “industrious people that came before us” in settling St. Marys.
“We sometimes forget about this legacy we’ve assumed,” he said. “This is a place where many of our families immigrated from hardship and famine to make a better life. They milled grain, ploughed fields, built railroads, and worked to create a vibrant economy. The Scottish masons who built many of the wonderful buildings in our community, farmers from many European communities such as the Netherands and Belgium, or the Italian community who came to work in our cement plant. These are examples of the people who came from many countries to live in this area to make it strong and a great place to live.”
He also thanked the rest of Council for supporting the effort, as well as the government of Ontario for their contributions to the project. A statement by Jeff Leal, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs was read, stating the province is “committed to working with communities like the Town of St. Marys to provide stable, predictable funding to build and repair critical infrastructure. Investments like the rehabilitation of the Water Street Bridge help to support significant economic activity in local communities, create jobs, and help maintain a strong regional business climate across the province.”
Perth–Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece was also in attendance, giving his congratulations to Council for the completed project.
“The rehabilitation of this bridge has been a great project, because this old and rather quirky structure suits St. Marys,” said Heritage St. Marys member Mary Smith. “It suits this particular place in our urban landscape; it’s one of a cluster of bridges crossing Trout Creek, and its trusses make an interesting contrast to the lovely stone arches of the Church Street Bridge, and to the more recent concrete of the Wellington Street Bridge. It suits us because of its long controversial history; the residents of St. Marys love controversy, especially when it has to do with heritage structures. It suits us because it stands as a symbol of what makes our community special, what helps to anchor us and to give us a sense of home.”