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The bridge is open

Kugaaruk marks anniversary with completion of an important four-year public-works project

Christine Kay
Northern News Services

Pelly Bay (Aug 26/02) - Kugaaruk celebrated its 30th anniversary this month with the formal crossing of an age-old barrier between the community's hunters and the natural resources they depend on.

Construction of the new bridge over the Alliarusiq River, and the 11-kilometre road that runs it, began four years ago and was plagued by delays and controversy from the beginning.

After many struggles with the design of the project, ice buildup, fish habitat concerns and fuel shortages that kept construction equipment idle, the project is finally coming to an end.

"There's still a little bit of stuff to do on the road, but only little minor details," said deputy mayor Remi Krikort.

This bridge and road will make the land surrounding Kugaaruk more accessible. No longer will hunters have to wait for low water to get to the other side of the river it crosses. And the nearby DEW Line site can now be reached by road, making travel for the crew cleaning up the site more convenient.

Residents of Kugaaruk not involved in the cleanup, meanwhile, can take advantage of improved access to the land for both hunting or fishing.

Musicians like Johnny Oovaut and Rhoda Ezekiel travelled from Quaqtaq in Nunavik to help with the celebrations Aug. 15 to 18. They performed gospel music at the arena and received endless applause.

A community feast was held at a picnic area near the bridge. Although many people had jumped the gun and already taken a drive across the river, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony took place.

Community Government and Transportation Minister Manitok Thompson and elder Jose Angutingunirk performed the ceremony together.

Krikort said he is happy with the way things worked out, despite a pesky wind that seemed to stick around throughout the celebrations.

"There was quite a big turnout. On the road to the bridge there was traffic like down South almost," said Krikort.

And this traffic may have been caused by the attractive smell of the feast being prepared near the bridge. It was made up of everything from muktaaq and caribou to hot dogs for the kids.

No one in the community had anything but praise for the bridge and the new road.

"It will help a lot for remote hunting. There's mainly one river we have to cross to go hunt. Before the bridge, we had to wait for the water to come down," said resident Stephen Inaksajak.

Most of the work on the road and bridge was completed last summer, but Krikort said the weather was too cold to have the opening ceremonies at that time.

He's glad they waited because with the 30th anniversary to celebrate as well, the timing could not have been better.