A well-used footbridge considered an integral part of the active transportation network in west central Winnipeg will be closed until late spring.
City of Winnipeg crews blocked access to the footbridge over Omand’s Creek last week, after late-November flooding submerged the structure and froze into thick, hazardous ice, public works spokeswoman Julie Dooley said.
"It’s completely iced over, so it’s just not safe for people to walk over it," she said.
Every spring, the bridge is flooded when the Assiniboine River spills into the creek and submerges parts of Omand Park in Wolseley. Late fall flooding, however, is uncommon.
Dooley said the crossing had been under ice for a few weeks before it was closed, and creek levels have since returned to normal.
There’s no indication the structural integrity of the bridge has been impacted, she said, yet the city won’t be making an effort to restore public access this winter.
"We appreciate the inconvenience of the closure, but want to ensure all park users stay safe. Pedestrians can still access the other side of the bridge by rerouting down Raglan Street to Portage Avenue," she said.
Anders Swanson, executive director of Winnipeg Trails Association, said the closure is an example of deficiencies in the city’s maintenance of active transportation networks.
"That bridge and the detour is indicative of a number of gaps in the city where we need things to be designed to accommodate all users, all year long," Swanson said.
The path through Omand Park is popular with cyclists, runners, and pedestrians who use the footbridge to cross Omand’s Creek while out for walks with their dogs, running the popular Wolseley-Wellington loop, or travelling between the Polo Park area and downtown.
Without access to the crossing, people are choosing instead to traverse the heaved ice of the frozen creek, or head north on Raglan Street to Portage Avenue, and south again to the parkway to get to their destination, and neither option is ideal, Swanson said.
"It really points to the fact that what are your alternatives? And when you have a city with the bare minimum of connectivity, every little piece counts," he said.
The bridge is also part of the North Assiniboine Parkway, which ties in to the city’s planned active transportation network on Empress Street, part of a $22.83-million rehabilitation project of Empress Street and the overpass. It’s also a critical alternative to cycling on Portage Avenue, Swanson said.
Given the importance of the bridge to the active transportation network, and the frequent flooding of the creek, more political attention could be paid to improving infrastructure in Omand Park, Swanson said. Raising the bridge to avoid chronic flooding would be a good starting point.
"It’s important that we have continuous predictable, usable, reliable infrastructure along all the banks of every river," he said.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.