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Pembroke's new boardwalk opened to fanfare and fun, despite gusty weather

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

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An era has come to an end for the Pembroke Waterfront. Luckily, a new one is just beginning.

On Monday, Aug 3, scores of people turned out to attend the grand opening of the brand new waterfront boardwalk, replacing the aging planks and beams of the Millennium Boardwalk, constructed in 1999.

To mark the occasion, students from the Algonquin College office administration executive program put together a jam-packed agenda of family fun, including a bouncy castle, face painting, Algonquin College forestry students showing off their skills, a balloon artist, a magic show, a visit from the Pembroke Fire Department and even a chance for local kids to exchange high fives and hugs with Batman and Princess Elsa of Disney's Frozen.

The main attraction, though, was the boardwalk itself, put together by students in Algonquin's pre-apprenticeship construction program and out of materials almost entirely donated by Pastway Planing in Combermere, Eganville's Heideman Brothers Lumber and Timber Specialities, who provided the innovative MicroPro treatment for the wood, ensuring that the boardwalk will look as good years from now as it does today.

It was on that boardwalk, at “Renfrew County Corner” specifically, that representatives from Algonquin College, the city of Pembroke, Renfrew County and the project's major sponsors came together to “cut the ribbon” (saw through a long piece of lumber, to be precise) and officially declare the boardwalk open.

“I've said it many times,” said Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay during his address to the crowd, “this waterfront is the crown jewel of our city. It instills pride in our community and is enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages. Thank you to everyone involved in the revitalization of our waterfront.”

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski was also on hand, and offered his own appreciation for the new boardwalk and his specific thanks to Fred Blackstein, who was instrumental in pulling the project together.

“This is absolutely tremendous, looking at the quality of this work, and the materials,” he said. “I have to take my hat off to Fred Blackstein. Fred gets a lot of accolades, and he probably doesn't want any of them, but he is such a getter and a doer in this community. When he sees something that is needed, he's always one of the first to step up to the plate and the redoing of this boardwalk is no exception to that rule.”

Ceremony MC Jamie Bramburger echoed those sentiments of appreciation of the work done by Blackstein.

“As with many of the large community projects that take place here in Renfrew County,” he told the crowd by way of introduction before Blackstein himself took the podium, “the quarterback always seems to be Fred Blackstein, who has dedicated thousands of house of time to ensuring that the Pembroke waterfront is a very special place for everyone to enjoy.”

After Blackstein had concluded his remarks, regaling the crowd with stories of the construction process, and illustrating for them the sheer scale of the project, it was time for Algonquin College Pembroke Campus dean Karen Davies to offer her congratulations.

Davies had by far the toughest time, not through any fault or folly of her own, but because just before she took to the podium, the wind over the Ottawa River, which had been a mild breeze up until that point, whipped up to the point where speakers, microphones and even the podium itself needed to be held down to prevent them from blowing away.

“It is the students in the introduction to construction trades pre-apprenticeship program,” she said, soldiering on, “who were here through the blistering heat, through the few rainy days, with their instructors, replacing this magnificent boardwalk board by board, using state-of-the-art materials, processes and equipment. This is a legacy project and each and every one of these students for many, many years to come can bring their family and friends to this park and proudly state 'I build this boardwalk for the community to enjoy.'”

The only section of boardwalk still to be replaced is the stretch extending from the boat launch out over the breakwater to the pavilion across the marina entrance from the lighthouse. The other portion of old boardwalk, connecting the main segment to the parking lot, will be removed in the coming weeks and replaced by a paved walkway.

ryanpaulsen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @PRyanPaulsen