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A new boardwalk coming for Pembroke's waterfront

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


Pembroke's aging waterfront boardwalk will be replaced this summer with a squad of Algonquin College skilled trades students spearheading this ambitious endeavour.

With great fanfare, the project was launched Thursday near the junction that connects the boardwalk to the Kiwanis Walkway. Construction will start July 20 with an official opening ceremony scheduled for the August Civic holiday weekend.

The original cedar structure has suffered from wear and tear since its construction as a Millennium legacy initiative in the year 2000. It was estimated to cost $160,000 for a private contractor to repair the 16-foot wide boardwalk, which runs for 1,000 feet around the city's waterfront and marina, and replace the boards.

"After 16 years of very heavy use including thousands and thousands of pedestrians, bicycles, rollerblades, wheelchairs and walkers, the time has come to rebuild the boardwalk," said Fred Blackstein, who headed up the waterfront project from its beginning and is a member of the waterfront advisory committee.

When the original boardwalk was installed, no pressure treatment chemicals or techniques that were environmentally suitable were used. However, the new boards and supplies, to be donated by Pastway Planing and Lavern Heideman & Sons Limited, will include specially treated wood from MicroPro Sienna. Pastway Planing is based out of Combermere, while Lavern Heideman & Sons Limited is located near Eganville.

With funding from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, 20 students from the Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Trades program, under the supervision of construction techniques academic advisors Jack Van Starkenberg, will tear up the old boards and build the new walkway.

Addressing the brief ceremony, Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay said he was grateful to both the donors and the students for rebuilding this important part of the city's recreational culture. Calling it the crown jewel of Pembroke, LeMay said this is a special public space that has been primarily built and maintained by volunteers.

"This boardwalk belongs to the community," he said. "It is fitting that the hands that will build it represent the youth of our city. This project provides the students with an opportunity to showcase their talent in an incredible display of good citizenship. This project symbolizes what Pembroke is all about. People helping people. We live in a wonderfully generous and supportive community where we all work together."

This isn't the first time Algonquin College students have put their imprint on the waterfront. Even before the new campus was opened in 2012, the college's forestry students cleared an area and built the waterfront chapel. Students also repaired the boardwalk after a windstorm heavily damaged it 10 years ago. Algonquin College president Cheryl Jensen said the institution has a long history serving this community and supporting the revitalization of the downtown.

"Over a four-week period our students will gain technical carpentry skills while they work as a team to complete an incredibly important project for this region," said Jensen. "This is a legacy project that the students will be proud of for many years to come."

Karen Davies, dean of the Pembroke Waterfront Campus, said she expects her students to deliver a project of high quality workmanship.

"Our students have become excellent stewards of this waterfront," she said. "Building this boardwalk, they will be making another contribution to the waterfront and the city."

All 2,000 of the original name tags, bought separately by individuals and families as part of the original drive to get the boardwalk built by 2000, will be returned to their owners if they want them. The Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre will recycle the old boards and convert them into garden mulch.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist


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