With all the cycling we have been doing lately, we have been remiss in our walking. We set out to rectify this on September 24, 2020, with a walk in the autumn splendour of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley.
In Edmonton, the park system, comprised of 20 major parks and attractions along the river valley is called the Ribbon of Green. The largest urban park in Canada, it stretches some 48 km (30 miles) and covers 7,400 hectares (18,000 acres).
Our walk on this day, would be for a total of 9.5 km. (6 miles) on our out and back route. We would be mostly on the South bank, with a brief foray over the Groat Bridge to the North Bank.
We parked at Kinsmen Sports Centre, part of Kinsmen Park, named for the Kinsmen Association of Canada, who helped raise money for the facility in the 1950s and 1960s.
The park includes the Kinsmen Field House, opened as a multi use sport and recreation facility in January 1968. This facility has been host to numerous community sporting events, as well as music concerts ranging from Led Zeppelin, Queen, Uriah Heap, KISS and Ozzy Osborne to Bob Marley, Manfred Mann, Kansas and Gary Numan.
In 1976, the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre, an Olympic size pool and diving complex was added as a venue for the 1978 Commonwealth Games. It was also used for the 2005 World Masters Games.
The park also includes a water spray park, kids playground, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, outdoor swimming pool, picnic sites and a pitch and putt golf course.
But, we only came for the plentiful free parking. Once parked, we walked West past the kid’s play area toward the High Level Bridge,.
Rather than taking the upper trail, we stayed low and crossed the soccer fields. Ahead and above, stood the 777 m (2,549 foot) long High Level bridge. Completed in 1912, it joined the formerly separate communities of Strathcona and Edmonton, previously only connected by a river ferry. At that time, it accommodated 2 lanes of car traffic and pedestrians on the lower deck with 3 rail lines (1 train and 2 streetcar) on the upper deck.
Given its massive narrow curving entrance, many is the time the bridge has been closed, when large trucks impacted the massive steel beams which limit vehicle height to 3.2 m (10 ft. 6 in.). In 1980 two way traffic was changed to one way South. Also, in 1980, a local artist completed work on the Great Divide, a man-made waterfall that was 7 meters higher than Niagara Falls. It ran on holiday weekends until 2009, when the cost of repairs was deemed too high to continue. In 2013, the Light the Bridge campaign raised $2,500,000 to add LED lighting to the bridge, which can be colour controlled to honour sports teams and world events.
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