A few weeks ago, Doug van den Ham posted a route he had explored around Pimisi station. I kept planning to cycle the route but I just didn’t get around getting there. When I had a shift at Pimisi as an O-Train Ambassador recently, I thought I should venture out after my shift and take a few pics for those who haven’t been there.
As you can see in the 1999 screen capture above, there used to be a decent multi use pathway in this area, but after Claridge started to build on the east end of LeBreton, and later when RTG started building the light rail, not to mention the clean up of contaminated soil, the paths were closed.
I bet there is already a generation who doesn’t even remember it was open. The route ran all the way from the pumping station crossing old Booth road, along the aqueduct further west towards (the now removed part of) Preston, when LeBreton was still wide open.
You could also bike north along the old Preston St part and cross the Transitway towards the Ottawa river. O, those were the days.
New pathway at Pimisi
The new pathway, let’s call it the Pimisi pathway for now, starts off Albert St, just 150 mtr west of the intersection of Albert and Booth. It runs north for a bit and then turns east towards Pimisi Station.
At Pimisi, you can cross the station underneath the tracks. You actually cycle at a ‘basement’ level concourse with its own ticket machines and fare gates. At the north side of the concourse you’ll enter a landscaped shared space square with artworks by Indiginous artists. Here you find the Pimisi, set on a platform in the aqueduct. Pimisi is the Anishinaabe word for eel and this artwork is by Nadia Myre; a bit further up is a big red stylised Moose by Simon Brascoupé.
The path leading to the Moose ends at Broad St bridge over the aqueduct, which I assume will be integrated in one of the paths eventually. Broad St bridge is one of the five bridges across the aqueduct. Turning east, cycling underneath Booth St, you will see another old bridge, which I fear will be defunct, although Charles Akben-Marchant mentioned in his blog last week that there might be hope for the bridge. If you take a close look you’ll notice some cement has been applied to prevent it from further deterioration.
Now we are cycling along the aquaduct towards the first new developments on LeBreton. We need to cross the aqueduct and no less than three bridges are apparently hidden underneath here. From west to east: Lloyd street bridge, Grand Trunk Railway bridge and Lett Street bridge. As you can see on an even earlier screenshot you are somewhat following an old railway track there.
We will continue and turn right after the wall, which is the east wall of the Lett bridge. We keep the water to our right now and the Fleet Street Pumping Station appears, initially a one storey limestone building with a Mansard roof, with a second storey added in 1899.
Pumping Station and aqueduct
Located on LeBreton Flats, it featured a novel use of water power to operate the pumps rather than the more traditional steam-driven engines used in Hamilton. Water was drawn in from an intake near Chaudière Falls and fed through an open aqueduct to waterwheels coupled to two large reciprocating pumps. These reciprocating pumps pumped water extracted from a separate intake from the river into the distribution system. The pumping station continues to play a significant role in the City’s water distribution.
Now you will understand why there is this aqueduct on LeBreton Flats. Intrigued? Read ‘Images of Centretown‘ with a really nice post with more detail on how this pumping system works until today.
After the pumping station, turn right on to Pooley’s bridge. Lieutenant Henry Pooley built the original wooden bridge, hence the name. Stop on Pooley’s bridge and see the kayaking course on the north side of the bridge. After the bridge, turn left to get to Quebec via the separate bike infrastructure on Portage bridge or connect with the path that runs behind Parliament Hill. After 21 years in Ottawa, I still have not completely figured out the maze of paths there. Some wayfinding would be an asset.
NCC Lebreton Open House
Tonight between 5 and 9 pm, November 21, 2019 the NCC holds an open house to present the draft vision for LeBreton. I am going to demand a mini Amsterdam and nothing less: no windy corridors, no plain windows at street level (plinths) of tall buildings, no large soulless squares with grey pavers surrounded by grey buildings. Here is the LeBreton open house info.
Thanks to Doug for pointing out this route and while writing this post, I learned a bit more about Ottawa’s history.
Drawing from: https://app06.ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/archives/rmoc/Regional_Council/12May99/Tcr35.pdf
The path from Albert St to the Pimisi Station lowest level typifies the under-thought-out LRT project. The path is lengthy, is plowed in winter, and used daily by vehicles servicing and maintaining the Station. Yet it is a dead end for vehicles, with no turnaround or parking areas, so vehicles drive or park on the freshly-seeded greenspace, rutting it [shown nearby in the background of one of your pictures] and then dragging mud and slime over the pathway for people to walk through.