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Pembroke's boardwalk all set for complete replacement - thanks to much help

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

Ryan Paulsen / Daily Observer

A team from the Algonquin College office admin executive program - Marissa Dean, left, Janet Leeck, Kelsey Boldt and Janet Trebinskie - take a tour of the boardwalk at Pembroke's Waterfront Park on Monday, going over plans for the big party celebrating the grand opening of the replacement boardwalk. Construction on the new boardwalk begins on Monday, July 20, and the grand opening celebration is slated for two weeks later, on Monday, Aug. 3.

Ryan Paulsen / Daily Observer A team from the Algonquin College office admin executive program - Marissa Dean, left, Janet Leeck, Kelsey Boldt and Janet Trebinskie - take a tour of the boardwalk at Pembroke's Waterfront Park on Monday, going over plans for the big party celebrating the grand opening of the replacement boardwalk. Construction on the new boardwalk begins on Monday, July 20, and the grand opening celebration is slated for two weeks later, on Monday, Aug. 3.

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Big things are afoot for the Pembroke Waterfront, and it’s all coming together this week. For more than a year, plans have been underway to replace the current boardwalk, currently in its 16th season after being installed by a massive volunteer effort in the run-up to the millennial celebration in 2000.

Although the need to replace the boardwalk hardly came as a surprise (few boardwalks of its type last much longer than 15 or 16 years), the initial cost estimations were enough to give pause, totalling roughly $150,000.

Although the city has reserve funds to pay for the replacement projects, the group behind the task set about trying to gather as much interest, and as many donations, as possible.

One of the key figures in just about any project involving Pembroke’s Waterfront, Fred Blackstein, is thrilled to announce now that the estimated costs to the city will be ringing in at just about $15,000, 90 per cent less than was originally projected.

This obviously represents a significant savings, particularly when you consider some of the sheer numbers involved in the project. The boardwalk is 1,000 feet long and 16 feet wide, and if you laid all the decking planks involved end-to-end, they would stretch from the current start of the boardwalk, along Pembroke Street East, and all the way to beyond the Quebec-Ontario border en route to Allumettes Island (nine kilometers).

A large part of those savings comes from the generosity of Pastway Planing in Combermere, who is a local supplier for a new form of treated lumber that is both extremely durable and also fully approved environmentally for use along waterfronts (and even for use in fresh water as well). Normally the wood is significantly more expensive than traditional lumber, but Pastway, with the help of the treatment patent holder and distributor, is covering nearly the whole $50,000 cost of the wood itself.

Another big contributor to the project is Algonquin College in the Ottawa Valley, who are providing a great deal of logistical and organizational support to the project.

“Having the college involved,” says Blackstein, “is the difference between this happening and this not happening.”

One of the most common questions regarding the old boardwalk relates to the future of the commemorative plaques that once adorned each board along the walkway. Originally, there was consideration of erecting a monument of some sort at the waterfront to continue the legacy of the plaques, but popular demand prompted a change of plans.

“A monument was one plan,” explains Blackstein, “but I did a focus group, talking to everyone I found involved and along the waterfront, and asked them what they would like to see done. Overwhelmingly, they said ‘we’d like them back.’”

So far, roughly 300 of the plaques have been returned to the families and businesses that paid for them, with the rest available for collection by stopping by the marina boat launch office and leaving your name and the plaque number you would like returned.

As was announced in late May of this year, the planned grand unveiling of the new boardwalk is slated for Monday, Aug 3, the Civic Holiday, and students from Algonquin College’s office executive administration program are hard at work making plans and coordinating the big event.

Details are a bit sparse on the exact agenda for the party, but one thing is for sure: it will be a great day for the whole family.

“We’re trying to make it kid-friendly,” says Kelsey Boldt, “but not just kids, we want everyone to feel welcome and have a great time, since it’s the holiday. We just want everyone to come out and have a good time and see what we’ve done.”

This week is the final run-up to the start of construction, with security fencing going up on Wednesday, July 15, lumber getting dropped off Thursday and Friday, and the hammers start flying on Monday, with a whole team of students working away for as long as it takes to get each and every old board and support stringer torn up and replaced by brand new ones. By Aug. 3, the high-traffic boardwalk will be gleaming and new, ready to take on decades of visitors, new and old alike, and continue to be a landmark for the city.

ryan.paulsen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @PRyanPaulsen