DANCES WITH WORDS: Is anyone out there listening?

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Nick Wolochatiuk

A local pilot shared the following story with me. “A young boy went missing one winter. Early that spring, the police hired me to fly one of their officers along the waterfront to search for his body, thinking he might have been scooped up by a snow plow and accidentally dumped into the Cornwall Canal.”

“At a very low altitude, we flew back and forth along the canal. The officer was seated beside me, intent on scrutinizing the water below. On one pass, he happened to glance upwards. What he saw terrified him.”

He blurted out, “Hey! You just flew under the bridge! Isn’t that against the law?”

I looked at him, saying, “How can that be? The law is on my side!”

On Tuesday July 8 hundreds of strollers took part in “The Final Walk” on the old north span of the Seaway International Bridge. That’s proof positive that the iconic structure is a focal point of the area’s history and culture.

Imagine New York without the Statue of Liberty, Paris without engineer Gustave’s 1899 World Fair ‘temporary’ landmark, Pisa without its Bonanno Pisano’s incliner, London without Tower Bridge, San Francisco without its Golden Gate or Cornwall without its 1962-2014 North Span bridge to Cornwall Island.

When the demolition contract for the bridge is carried out, Cornwall, once touted as being ‘The Seaway City’, will lose its signature landmark. Unless its centre span is saved by a brave move of farsightedness, and modified by the addition of an elevator, Cornwall will once again add another historical landmark to the ‘there used to be…’ list, which includes The Capitol Theatre and the pre-1957 canal that once paralleled Water Street.

Speaking of canals, Montreal’s once-buried Lachine Canal was recently disinterred, rehabilitated and reinstituted as a functioning recreational waterway: smart move and proof that history can be resuscitated.   

Back to the bridge: lost will be an exhilarating viewpoint for events such as the Balloonfest, the annual fireworks displays, the Cornwall canal remnants and the hoped-for redevelopment of the Domtar mill lands. How fine its lattice of structural steel and towering concrete pillars would have looked bathed in lights, just as the CN Tower is. What a loss for locals and tourists!          

Once again, we’ll lose a golden opportunity. Ah well, at least I’ve spoken out before the wrecker’s ball and jackhammers start their work.

Organizations: The Capitol Theatre, Domtar, CN Tower

Geographic location: Cornwall Island, New York, Paris London San Francisco Golden Gate The Seaway Montreal

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