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New Banff pedestrian bridge to honour Nancy Pauw legacy

Stoney Nakoda representatives asked the Town of Banff to hold off on a name for the new pedestrian bridge until Stoney Nakoda has had time to complete a cultural assessment; however, the request did not make it in time for council's July 14 meeting when the bridge was officially named The Nancy Pauw Bridge

BANFF – A new $5.5 million pedestrian bridge to be built across the Bow River will be named in honour of longtime community philanthropist Nancy Pauw who passed away in 2018 after a long battle with cancer.

But some believe the naming of The Nancy Pauw Bridge is a missed opportunity to support Indigenous heritage and reflect in the wake of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of children at former residential schools in Canada.

In a letter dated Monday (July 14), Stoney Nakoda officials asked Banff council to put off naming the bridge until after a cultural assessment has been completed to help inform a recommended name; however, the letter was not received in time to be included in the agenda for council’s Monday afternoon meeting.

“We would request that a name for the project not be selected, until Stoney Nakoda has had time to complete a cultural assessment,” said William Snow, consultation manager for Stoney Tribal Administration.

On Monday, council voted 4-2 to name the structure The Nancy Pauw Bridge in recognition of the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation’s longstanding and ongoing contributions to recreation in the Bow Valley, which include a $2.5 million donation to the new pedestrian bridge to be built between Central Park and the Banff recreation grounds.

In addition, council directed administration to consult with neighbouring Indigenous communities on potential names for existing or planned infrastructure projects or assets within the municipality to honour Indigenous people – and to report back to council by the end of March 2022.

The naming of the bridge honouring Nancy Pauw is intended to be permanent. There is not set term on naming, however, under the naming and sponsorship policy, council can rename municipal assets at a later date. 

Councillor Peter Poole said he is very grateful for the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation’s charitable efforts in the community and appreciates the good faith negotiations between the Town of Banff administration and the foundation.

However, he argued the move goes against the municipality’s own naming and sponsorship policy, adding the Town should go through a process with community input on worthy naming alternatives, including recognition of Indigenous heritage.

“Our naming policy encourages public input on those worthy alternatives, and at this time in our country, we might want to ask ourselves and our fellow residents what does a bridge signify,” he said. “On balance, I think our naming policy inclines us to take time and think broadly. In the long run, I think that will serve our town better.”

The Town of Banff and the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation signed an agreement on the $2.5 million capital contribution to the pedestrian bridge in January 2020; however, naming was conditional on approval from council.

Councillor Grant Canning voiced support for naming the new pedestrian bridge after Nancy, arguing the agreement was approved in good faith nine months before council’s blessing of a new naming and sponsorship policy in September 2020.

“In my mind, this agreement pre-dates that policy and it was entered into in good faith by both parties,” he said.

“For us to go back and to reopen that negotiation, retroactively with that policy, I just don’t agree with that. I don’t think that’s acting in good faith on our part.”

Nancy was passionate about cycling, skiing and a wide range of sports and outdoor  pursuits. After a courageous battle with cancer, she died in 2018 just days before her 60th birthday.

Town of Banff administrative officials say Nancy gave so much to the community of Banff.

“Nancy Pauw, like so many residents, moved to Banff and prospered, and gave back to  the community in significant and generous ways that affect many residents,” according to a staff report to council.

“The bridge represents the active lifestyle and adventure that Nancy Pauw’s own life embodied and inspired. The bridge would not be possible without the guiding legacy of the foundation that she and Wim Pauw nurtured.”

The Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation represents the philanthropic efforts of a hospitality company founded and based in Banff. Funded by the profits of Banff Caribou Properties and Banff Lodging Company, the foundation’s goal is to reinvest in Banff.

Between 2013 and 2020,  the foundation gifted $2.1 million to grassroots community initiatives that meet one of three pillars – active lifestyles, enhancing  education and community building.

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.

The donation supports a variety of municipal recreation programs such a $19,000 for the Town’s Mountain Adventurers out-of-school programs, $18,000 for the Summer Youth drop-In program, and $10,000 for programs at The Basement youth drop-in centre.

The foundation has also allocated $33,000 to the BanffLIFE Mountain Adventure program for residents between 18 and 30 years of age and the Mountain Life program for the 30-plus age group.

“These contributions represent only a small portion of the funding the foundation has provided for the benefit of Banff and Bow Valley residents,” states the administrative report.

Meanwhile, Stoney Nakoda, which is comprised of the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley First Nations, held a virtual meeting with the Town of Banff in early May 2021 regarding the Banff pedestrian bridge project.

At that time, the need for a cultural assessment by Stoney Consultation to understand the cultural impacts of this project was discussed.

In addition, Snow said once a cultural assessment of this project is completed, Stoney Nakoda would have enough information to recommend a name.

He said a cultural assessment is a report conducted by the Stoney Nakoda that includes, but is not limited to planning, ceremony, Elder interviews, Fieldwork, Elder reconnection, report writing, and outreach.

“These steps will help to assist in understanding the cultural concerns related to the proposed project,” said Snow.

“As of the time of this letter, Stoney Nakoda has not completed a cultural assessment of the proposed project.”

In 2013, a first pedestrian bridge, which now sees about 5,000 crossings per day in the busy summer season, was built across the Bow River at Muskrat Street to near the Banff YWCA.

The new $5.5 million bridge is being paid for with a $2.5 million contribution from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation, $2.2 million from the federal government and $800,000 from the Town of Banff.

Following a public tendering process, StructureCraft was awarded the contract for the design-build of the structure, which is to be a glulam arch style bridge with structural steel support.