Monday, 8 August 2016

Change: Dealing with the Inevitable

Closing the Cloverdale Footbridge

It used to be so easy for me to commute to Folk Fest. Easy to the point where I took it for granted.

Cloverdale, the neighbourhood which plays host to the festival every August, was just a short walk across the river from Riverdale, where I’ve lived my entire life. This was made possible by the Cloverdale footbridge, which loomed over the river valley like a peaceful giant, affording walkers and bikers safe passage across the river, and giving many teens the opportunity to carve their initials in hearts on its wooden rails. (Seriously, there’s a new one every few feet.)

But now, those walkers and bikers will have to find another way to Folk Fest, and wherever else they want to go, because the bridge is set for demolition this September. In its place will be the Valley Line LRT expansion, serving the same purpose but doing so in a very different way.

I’m not here to debate the merits of expanding the LRT into the river valley, because I’m not a city planner. But the fact of the matter is that it’s going to be gone very soon. Something that I just assumed I would know and be able to walk across forever is now leaving unceremoniously.

For the last 38 years, the footbridge has been a staple of the river valley. It has peacefully carried tens of thousands of walkers and bikers wherever they needed to go. Many people in my neighbourhood don’t want to see it go, and have been fighting a legal battle with the city over the land rights for the past year. Before the bridge was even erected, passionate citizens forced the halt to a city transportation plan that would’ve plonked a freeway right in the middle of MacKinnon Ravine. That was back in 1972, and it shows that passionate grassroots action can in fact change the government’s mind. But today, in 2016, it seems the public is fighting a losing battle. With the successes of other mass rail transit systems in cities like Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver, Edmonton seems desperate to catch up, even if it means cutting right through the heart of the formerly peaceful river valley.

Even when I heard about the Valley Line plan and how it would lead to the demolition of the footbridge back in 2012, I didn’t really think much of it. The actual demolition seemed so far away back then. The bridge seemed like a permanent fixture, like many things in my life back then.

Things can change though.

One of the final rides across the Cloverdale Footbridge

Back in 2012 I was doing my first year at the U of A. I was a psychology major, and the end of my
undergraduate degree was so far in the distance I wasn’t even thinking about it. I had friends that had their schooling planned out for the entirety of their undergrads. They knew what classes they had to take two years before they had to take them.

I completely changed after my second year, so much so that I don’t think I’d be able to recognize myself if I took a time machine back to 2012.

As a student, I’ve spent a lot of time attaching the idea of permanence to things that are ultimately temporary. My graduation from university was so far away that I didn’t even think about it. The footbridge getting closed was so far away that I didn’t think about it.

Then the day snuck up on me without any warning whatsoever, and there was a fence in the middle of the path where I used to walk to Folk Fest every year. I imagine my university graduation is going to smack me in the face just as brutally, and with just as little warning. Eight months can go by really quick if you’re not paying attention. So can four years.

I thought the footbridge was going to be there forever. I thought I’d be able to walk across it for forever. But on the evening of July 13th, I walked across it for the last time. This upcoming April, I’ll take my last steps on the U of A campus as an undergraduate student. Both the bridge and my undergrad will be gone. Two monoliths of permanence, vanished.

If this sounds bittersweet, it’s because it is. I’ll savour both the times I had on the bridge and the times I had in my undergrad, but the fact of the matter is that sooner rather than later they will both be gone. It’s just a fact of life. If I had any advice for anyone reading this, it would be as follows: savour everything you have, because it might be gone one day. It may be an inevitability like my undergraduate degree, or an unwelcome surprise like the footbridge closing, but the fact that I’ve chosen to savour and remember the good times involved with both makes losing both just a little bit easier.

Zach - YouAlberta Contributor

Zach is a sixth-year Sociology major with a creative writing minor. Scared of being a real adult and being awake before noon. He can be found either eating, sleeping, meandering in the river valley, or watching a Toronto Blue Jays game. He misses having long hair because now none of his hats fit properly.

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