How a famous Montreal bridge is getting a second life at a camp for Scouts – Montreal

After being decommissioned nearly four years ago, part of the original Champlain Bridge, the steel structure that connected the Island of Montreal to the south shore, will live on at the longest continuously open Scout camp in Quebec.

A few pieces of the bridge will go toward a brand new crossing — but of a different kind. They will be used to build a footbridge at the sprawling Dunn Memorial Scout Camp in Elgin, Que., about 80 kilometres southwest of Montreal near the United States border. The camp, which has been open since 1954, spans about 100 acres and borders the Châteauguay River.

Cory Ovans, chair of the camp, said the footbridge will be constructed above a swamp to allow Scouts and campers to officially cross between two camps at the site. It will also replace the old one, which has slowly rotted away after nearly 20 years.

“Our 70th anniversary is next year,” Ovans said in a recent interview. “So we’re hoping to have the bridge at least partially completed by then because we’re going to do a big field day in celebration of the 70th.”

The Dunn Memorial Scout Camp is one of 11 winners of the original Champlain Bridge Material Reuse Competition. More than 400 steel components dismantled from the bridge will be used in different initiatives, ranging from a residential greenhouse to works of art.

Dunn Memorial Scout Camp welcomes hundreds of Scouts and other young campers every year.

Cory Ovans/ Dunn Memorial Scout Camp

Sandra Martel, CEO of Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated,  said the variety of projects will honour the memory of an important structure in Montreal’s history. The old bridge over the St. Lawrence River is set to be fully deconstructed by January 2024.

“The participants have shown creativity and innovation, and we look forward to seeing these proposals come to life,” Martel said in a statement in late April, when the winners were announced.

At the Scout camp, the footbridge comprised of the historic pieces of steel will officially be called the Sunshine Bridge. The moniker is in honour of Cecile Antink, whose Scout leader name is Sunshine. The bridge will be used to commute on the old Champlain Bridge every day “so it’s particularly special to her.”

“I wanted to honour her in some way,” Ovans said.

Antink is not only passionate about the project, she is the driving force behind Scouting in the area, Ovans said. After taking six months to design the footbridge and drafting paperwork, the camp’s committee submitted their application. About a year later, their project was selected as one of the winners of the competition.

The crossing will be built thanks to the dedication of volunteers, ranging from farmers to construction workers. A former camper who is now a welder has offered his time while a trucking company will help pick up and transport the steel pieces of the original Champlain Bridge to the site.

Malyssa Houle stands where the old footbridge is at Dunn Memorial Scout Camp.

Cory Ovans/Dunn Memorial Scout Camp


The community has come together to lend a helping hand to put up the Sunshine Bridge, which is set to be about eight feet (2.4 metres) wide by 60 feet (18.2 metres) long. Ovans put a call out online and people quickly responded to offer their services.

“It has been shocking, but really amazing,” Ovans said.

The Sunshine Bridge should take about a year to build and the priority is not to damage the swamp or trees at the site, he added. Ovans has no doubt that it will go to good use too, since hundreds of campers use the site every year.

Dunn Memorial Scout Camp has strong ties in the community and a rich history in the area, so it is no surprise people are excited to help with the project. About 20 people have already shown interest in helping the construction the new footbridge.

“I’m sure everyone is going to come out of the woodwork,” Ovans said.

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