The Nancy Pauw Bridge

Concept Image

Bridge View from West Looking East

Since 1914, a Central Park pedestrian crossing has been considered for to be an important project for our community. 

Project summary:

  • Construction of the Nancy Pauw Bridge is scheduled to begin in fall 2021
  • Completion is expected by fall 2022
  • Sustainable materials and wildlife-friendly design
  • Total cost of the project is $5.5 million
  • Project Manager: Town of Banff
  • Design and Construction: StructureCraft - Structural Engineering and Timber Construction

In January 2020, the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation committed to donate $2.5 million towards designing and building the bridge, pending other funders to close a shortfall for the $5.5 million project. The project received $800,000 from the Town of Banff in the 2020 budget process, subject to approval of a $2.2 million grant from the Government of Canada. In May 2021, the federal government confirmed investing $2.2 million in this project through the Public Transit Infrastructure Stream (PTIS) of the Investing in Canada Plan.  (Download news release - PDF.)

The bridge is named in memory of philanthropist and longtime Banff resident Nancy Pauw, whose foundation continues to fund many grassroots community initiatives that meet one of three pillars: Active Lifestyles, Enhancing Education, and Community Building.

Wim and Nancy Pauw

Wim Pauw moved to Banff in 1969 where he worked as a front desk agent at the YWCA, a lift operator at the Banff Gondola, and an electrician with Henry’s Electric. He eventually made his fortune building a successful hospitality company in Banff. Wim met Nancy in the 1990s while cycling on a 3,100 mile trans-continental trip from the east coast to the west coast of the United States. Over 22 years together, they grew the company, pursued adventure and learning and maintained a belief in their community as core components of their lives. After a courageous battle with cancer, Nancy Pauw passed away in 2018.

Nancy was passionate about cycling, skiing, and a wide range of sports and outdoor pursuits. The Foundation leaders indicate that Nancy had an active, healthy, and happy life, and this legacy continues to guide the Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation today. 

Between 2013 and 2020, the Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation has gifted $2,127,000 to grassroots community initiatives. In March 2021, for the second year, the Foundation donated $90,000 to the Town of Banff to ensure youth and young adults have access to recreational activities at an affordable price.

Visitor benefits 

This route will provide visitors with convenient access from the downtown hub to attractions on Cave Avenue, such as the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the commercial horse stables, and events in the Recreation Grounds.

The bridge will become a popular, free destination for experiencing the wonderful Bow River and mountain vistas. 

A pedestrian crossing joining natural areas on the south side and Central Park will effectively double the picnic and leisure opportunities immediately accessible from downtown.

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Benefits for residents

This bridge will greatly reduce commuter time for people living in the Cave Avenue area. A pedestrian bridge would provide a safer route than on-street cycling on the Banff Avenue Bridge. Winter crossings at this location are commonplace – leading to concerns over safety and highlighting the popularity of the location.

Based on pedestrian counts of the sidewalks on the Banff Avenue vehicle bridge and survey data from 2007, we expect between 5,000 and 8,000 crossings per day during the peak summer period – potentially eliminating over 3,000 vehicle trips.

Environmental Design

The detailed design mirrors the existing pedestrian bridge at Muskrat Street. The bridge will have a clear span of the Bow River to avoid any impact on the ecosystem. The bridge will have a low profile to minimize obstruction of mountain vistas,  while high enough to allow uninterrupted travel of wildlife such as elk year-round. The project will relocate a trail away from the river bank to better protect the riparian corridor. The structure will be primarily made of wood. The overarching goal of the project is to foster more sustainable transportation modes such as walking and cycling, by providing an easy and efficient alternative to vehicles.

Transit connection

The project would provide the “last mile” to connect Roam transit routes centred in the downtown hub with attractions and neighbourhoods in the southwest corner of the town site.

With better transit connections and more convenient pedestrian and cyclist routes, this project has the potential to reduce traffic across the Bow River vehicle bridge, benefiting visitors and residents alike.

This project incorporates concepts and the success of the Muskrat Street pedestrian bridge. The final design has not been completed.

Preliminary design work has been carried out on a structure type and layout that would ensure beneficial trail connections. This approach will also minimize any reduction in the useable area in Central Park. 

Bicycle route connections and trail loop

The pedestrian bridge would create several important connections for cycling routes that could form a town-wide network. The route would link to trails around the Recreation Grounds, Cave Avenue and Bow Falls Trail on the south side of the Bow River. That section connecting further to the Bow Falls section requires trail lighting and enhancements.

On the north side, a Central Park bridge connects with the Bow Avenue Trail, slated for widening and lighting enhancements, and continues on to the Fenlands Trailhead and, ultimately, the Legacy Trail departing west via the Vermilion Lakes Road.  

East of the Central Park bridge, the trail under the Banff Avenue Bridge is ready for future lighting and pavement enhancements, to connect to the Tunnel Mountain route up to Surprise Corner, or across the Muskrat Street pedestrian bridge and along to Bow Falls, and beyond.

Fast Facts:

  • Pedestrian traffic over the Bow River (pedestrian and traffic bridges combined) has increased 53% from 571,159 to 872,542 crossings, from 2015 to 2018.
  • The Town of Banff recorded 5,000 crossings per day, in peak season, on Muskrat Street Pedestrian Bridge, for a total of 900,000 crossings in 2018.
  • Banff’s 2017 municipal census identified 48% of the population commute to work by bicycle or walking in the winter, and 62% in summer.
  • Bicycle parking capacity in town has increased 55% from 550 in 2015 to over 850 in 2018, and usage has increased 42%.
  • Total annual vehicle volume over the Bow River Bridge decreased by 3.6% (173,548 vehicles) from 2017 to 2018.

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