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La Broquerie bridge pays tribute to town's founding families

Residents in La Broquerie, Man. are excited about a new landmark that is bridging the gap to the town's founding families.

The Bridge of the Pioneers was officially unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in La Broquerie this week. The steel-built covered bridge now spans the Seine River next to the La Broquerie golf course.

It's the culmination of a lifelong dream for Laurent Tetrault, deputy reeve for the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie.

"This project started approximately two years ago, it was a dream of mine to have a covered bridge on the Seine River…I've always been fascinated by covered bridges on rivers," said Tetrault.

The bridge cost approximately $500,000 to build, which was donated by local philanthropist Russ Edwards. Edwards moved to La Broquerie from Ukraine as a child in 1937, and is now the founder and owner of WGI Westman Group.

Tetrault approached Edwards about funding the project, and said the philanthropist was immediately on board.

"He remembered as a small boy how special it was to be welcomed in a (mostly) French community at the time," Tetrault said. "He wanted to give back to his community that welcomed his family."

Edwards had a specific plan for the bridge. "He wanted to recognize all of the pioneers, so we (researched) all the family names from 1875 to 1940," said Tetrault. "Mr. Edwards feels those are the people that really paid the price to build a community."

The names of the families who came to La Broquerie during that period are engraved along the inside of the bridge's roof.

The names of the families who came to La Broquerie between 1875 and 1940 are engraved along the inside of the bridge's roof. (Source: RM of La Broquerie)

The town held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, with local dignitaries attending, as well as Edwards and his wife.

"We had a huge crowd, and Mr. and Mrs. Edwards at 90 years old, but still very involved in the company," said Tetrault. "He made a beautiful speech on the history of him coming to Canada, his parents and all the misery they had, and how the people of La Broquerie even gave them food."

The ceremony also included hoop dancing, and attendees were treated to refreshments

Tetrault believes the covered bridge is the only one of its kind in Manitoba. The RM is also building a 6.5 kilometre-long walking path from the bridge around the golf course, so residents can enjoy it more.

"It’s a great recreation addition for our community," said Tetrault.

Tetrault's lifelong fascination with covered bridges began as a child, when he saw one for the first time on a Christmas card.

"I was always intrigued that they would have a house on a river," he said. "And it stayed with me for many, many years. I always dreamt that someday we would have one on the Seine River."

He hopes the Bridge of the Pioneers will become a tourist attraction for La Broquerie.

"The other day I spoke with someone from Nova Scotia who had heard about a covered bridge in Manitoba and they wanted to see it while they were driving to B.C.," he said. "So that's an example of how a little project can attract people from across Canada."

Tetrault is thrilled the bridge will be there for generations to come.

"We have a lot of young families, and when you build something at my age, it's not for me, it's for the people that (come) after us," he said. Top Stories

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