The weekend warrior: Laura Allardyce on the old Prince of Wales train bridge
Laura Allardyce is a cultural observer with an overactive imagination that is always insisting the glass is half full. She has lived in Ottawa her whole life and says she will only leave once she has smelled all the roses.
Though LTOttawa does not condone her hooliganism, we certainly do condone her great storytelling. Thanks for your contribution, Laura!
It’s a certain kind of weekend warrior who clocks out at five and regresses into their adventurous youth.
It was to be an afternoon of playing snakes and ladders in the park with some friends. We rode our bikes to a spot behind the Canadian War Museum by the river for an end-of-summer lazy day in the sun. Somehow the talk turned to hooliganism (of the childish variety, not the rowdy soccer fan kind). In the near distance we could see the old Prince of Wales train bridge. Someone was walking across it. Was he suicidal?? That bridge doesn’t even have railings! There are just two waist high wires between you and a watery grave at the depths of the Ottawa River. And it was a windy day!
Now, maybe it was the snakes and ladders, maybe the heat of the day had popped the hooligan kernel that lay dormant in our adult minds planted by earlier talk of teenage badassery. Or maybe after a long week of working for the weekend, we were up for anything.
You know that old train bridge by the parkway? The tracks run under the road and the bike path parallel passes under it? That’s the Prince of Wales bridge, at least that’s what I assume the decrepit decaying sign above its entrance used to say. Now it says Ince of Wals. If you get off the bike path and walk up the hill, you can climb perilously around the chain link fence and walk across that bridge – which is exactly what we did.
In an adolescent flashback-fueled impulse, we morphed into hooligans, breakin’ the rules and being bad. We were trespassing and didn’t care! Like that scene in Stand By Me, only a train never came. There is a sidewalk next to the tracks that is about four-feet wide and not nearly wide enough for a weak swimmer with a fear of heights. The bridge is covered with graffiti and oil spots making it ghetto and gross, but awesome and dangerous if you’re a 27-year-old with an over-active imagination. The view is spectacular, down river towards the rapids with a setting sun one way and the downtown shoreline the other. That’s right, a shoreline. Just call me Snookie.
Okay, so it turns out that a bunch of people use that bridge, not just the suicidal maniac we witnessed earlier. He’s fine, if you’re wondering.
The bridge crosses the river with a break in the middle at Lemieux Island. What mysteries awaited us on this seemingly abandoned island? Maneuvering through more chain link, past dead bonfires, through bushes we prayed weren’t poison ivy, we made up stories of debauchery and human tragedy, of spirited triumph and regret.
Finally emerging from the brush into the clearing we realized what was an adventure to us was a regular Sunday to everyone else who found themselves at the Lemieux Island dog park…
The moral of the story is this: there are hidden treasures all over this city.
Sometimes you find them by consulting the NCC, sometimes you just have to take a chance and embrace you inner hooligan. The dog park is safely accessible from River Street, off of the parkway. Also on the Island is the Ottawa water filtration facility, a nice man-made pond complete with ducks and frogs, perfect to eat salsa and chips by, and multiple lookout spots to stop at and watch the river flow into the sleepy city like dream soup.
If that’s how you choose to see it.