The Calgary Zoo’s old swing bridge over the Bow River that connected Zoo attractions had long been condemned, and when the 2013 floods hit the City of Calgary it was in the way of flood mitigation efforts. The bridge, originally built in 1960s was one of a number of similar swinging bridges that were built to connect Calgary neighbourhoods to its downtown core. The existing 1.5 m wide x 61 m long span suspension swing bridge at the Calgary Zoo had been closed for over a decade based on safety concerns.
The Calgary Zoo and surrounding infrastructure was highly affected by the 2013 flood and after the water receded, cleanup required extensive flood mitigation measures to stop future floods from occurring. To accommodate flood mitigation measures at the zoo, the swing bridge needed to be removed and replaced or rebuilt.
The first consideration was saving the original bridge, as the zoo was very connected to its historic significance as an original Calgary swing bridge.
The term swing bridge is an affectionate name for this type of light weight suspension bridge without a stiffening truss for the deck. The feeling of a bouncy “swing bridge” is nostalgic for some Calgarians.
There was a hard deadline for bridge construction completion – the arrival of the pandas to the Zoo. On May 3, 2018, in preparation for the impending arrival of the pandas, television cameras rolled as Bamboo, the Zoo’s panda mascot, was the first to officially cross the new bridge. The following Monday, on May 7, 2018, Panda Passage officially opened at the Calgary Zoo.
This new landmark is not a traditional ‘commuter bridge’ but an attraction at the Zoo and an important connection between the new panda enclosure and the prehistoric park.