By Alex Rinfret
Masset celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Delkatla bridge Monday morning (Feb. 14) with a gathering of schoolchildren, citizens and the couple who were the driving force behind the huge project.
Margo Hearne and Peter Hamel were all smiles as they recalled the exact moment – 9:34 am on Feb. 14, 1995 – when the tidewater flowed under the bridge and into the Delkatla Sanctuary, which had been landlocked for 30 years.
The sanctuary had been cut off from the salt water by a causeway, built in the 1960s, which completely blocked the tidal flow. Fisheries officer Al Cowan described the causeway as “a really stupid idea” which choked off the life of the sanctuary and blocked fish from getting through.
Now, he told the huge audience gathered on the bridge, the tide flows in and out, flushing nutrients throughout the vast Delkatla mudflats.
“We’ve got eelgrass starting to grow, and rockweed,” he said. “It’s turning back into a marine environmentÂ… We’ve now added a huge area back into productivity.”
The Tahayghen students – many of whom were not even born when the causeway existed – threw grass blades into the sea water on one side of the bridge and watched them flow under and out to the other side.
Ten years later, the bridge seems like an ordinary part of Masset, and it’s hard to recall the massive effort that went into building it. Ms Hearne and Mr. Hamel worked for years to raise money and convince provincial and federal authorities that the tide-blocking causeway had to go.
It turned out that Monday was a special celebration in another way – not only was it Valentine’s Day, it was also Mr. Hamel’s birthday. The entire crowd on the bridge sang “Happy Birthday” to him, then returned to school and work.
Ms Hearne said the Delkatla Sanctuary Society also held a quiet celebration dinner Saturday night at its new nature centre. About 15 people showed up, despite heavy snow, she said, and many stories of Delkatla were told by people who had lived beside it their whole lives.
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