A new bridge that will better help people access Back Bay Cemetery is nearer to completion after several pieces of donated construction materials were lifted in by helicopter on Saturday.

The bridge, which has been a project initiated by the True North Rotary Club, is expected to be completed with a grand opening this summer.

An Acasta helicopter was seen lifting bags of  about a half tonne of rocks into the Back Bay Cemetery, Saturday.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

On Saturday, Acasta Heliflight made eight trips from the Giant Mine public boat launch to the Back Bay Cemetery to carry two 65 feet long Northern Utilities poles and six big bags of riprap to the site on Back Bay.

Also known as the Pioneer Graveyard, the cemetery is recognized as a City of Yellowknife heritage site and many early residents of the municipality are commemorated with grave sites.

“We had to use the extra big helicopter,” explained Michael Kalnay, of True North Rotary, noting that the poles were about 1,800 kilograms each. “Acasta (Heliflight) paid for that and was a 100-per-cent donation.

“That is probably $5,000 worth of helicopter time that they donated and so now they are way over $10,000 in donations to the project at this point.”

A bag of riprap is lowered into the canyon creek at Back Bay Cemetery.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Aside from the pole donations from Northern Utilities, rocks were supplied by CR Enterprises, and were moved by Konge Construction to the public dock

The City of Yellowknife also donated about $10,000 worth of construction materials for the project, said Kalnay.

Kalnay said the project began about 18 months ago with design engineering by Guy Architects before piers were built into the creek banks last summer. Gravel was moved in during the first week of November and Saturday was just a matter of leveling and wedging poles into the pier.

“What comes next is we have to attach the poles, put up the steel superstructure and suspension cables and then build the decking and the fencing,” said Kalnay, noting that this will take place over March and April.
Kalnay said there will be a grand opening at an as yet unspecified date in the summer.

The bridge replaces a 20-foot walkway that had been closer to the shore and which had to be replaced due to soil conditions.

“What we will have there is a safe and accessible crossing to get to the pioneer cemetery and it is going to protect the environment and animal habitat that the old bridge was interfering with,” he said. “So it will be safe, accessible, environmentally sound and with any luck, it will stand up for a long time.”

Acasta also lifted two 65 foot poles to be placed at the site. Each weighed 1,800 kilograms. 
photo courtesy of Mike Kalnay
Club director Michael Kalnay said he estimates the project is worth about $80,000, with the majority of it based on in-kind donations from local companies and the city government.

He added that to date, there has been more than 506 volunteer hours put toward the bridge project, with about 400 left to go.

An Acasta chopper dips into the Back Bay Cemetery canyon.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Curtis Stamp, left, and Ken Quackenbush, saw into one of the bags of materials lowered into Back Bay Cemetery.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Curtis Stamp, left, and Ken Quackenbush sit on the poles in place at Back Bay Cemetery.
photo courtesy of Mike Kalnay
Bridge piers have been in place at the Back Bay cemetery since last year.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo


Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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  1. I want to start off by saying I am a supporter of Rotary and really appreciate the many things they do for our community. I am however somewhat perplexed with this project. The graveyard receives the majority if its visitation in the winter months…. when no bridge is required for access. Have you ever been there in the summer? It is usually invaded with numerous mosquitoes and is not the most pleasant place to visit. I don’t know many people who go there in the summer. In fact, in my 35+ years living here, I have only met a handful of people that have visited there in the summer….most of them Rotary members.

    I understand that this project “expanded” in scope due to safety issues and erosion concerns. It is a massive construction that somehow feels so out of place in this peaceful place.

    So much money, and effort has gone into this project…. I am sure it will be an awesome structure when finished. It just makes me wonder how Rotary sets its priorities?