Saturday dawned bright, clear, and calm—perfect barn-raising weather. Although in downtown Fonthill what was carefully pieced together over six hours or so were the new Pelham arches—this time in permanent steel.
The previous arches, intended for only one season’s use in 2012, lasted six years, and received a Niagara Community Design Award. They were comprised primarily of plywood, and blew down in a windstorm in February 2019. The new steel design mounted on concrete anchors should have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years, said Frank Adamson, the Fonthill Rotarian who has spearheaded the fundraising effort to rebuild the iconic feature, an effort that began practically before the dust had settled from the demise of the old arches. (The Voice is a contributor to the campaign.)
Initially costed out at $115,000, the price tag grew closer to $175,000 as two years of the pandemic delayed completion of the project, which was also scaled back from four to three arches as an economy measure. The structure’s curves reach a peak height of 25 ft., tall enough to ensure passage by commercial vehicles, and more importantly by the Pelham Fire Department’s largest trucks.
Work proceeded smoothly on Saturday under the supervision of James Federico, an engineer with offices in Fenwick who donated his time and expertise to the new design.
Pelham council committed $30,000 towards the construction of the arches in the form of a bridge loan, and Town staff have also been directed to apply for a $30,000 grant from the My Main Street grant program to recoup the cost. Niagara’s organizing committee for the Canada Summer Games is providing $10,000 for shade sails on the arches, and updated, high-efficiency lighting will come via a grant from Niagara Region.
The structure remains to be cladded in 3/8” white polycarbonate with ultraviolet protection, the same material used on the boards of hockey rinks.
“It is an exciting time to have the arches in place for the upcoming 2022 Canada Summer Games,” said Leah Letford, Pelham’s Communications Specialist. “The arches result from the exceptional efforts of the Fonthill Rotary club and the numerous local businesses and community members who contributed to and supported the ‘Raise the arches’ fundraiser campaign. It is wonderful to see the iconic arches return to Pelham and become a unique feature of the downtown core once again.”
Mayor Junkin was on scene as a lift operator gingerly lowered segments into place.
“Unlike the former arches,” said Junkin, “which were built by volunteers and had a presumed life span of one or maybe two years, but lasted an amazing six, these arches look very industrial—meaning heavy-duty. I am very anxious to see the job completed, with the final cladding on them. A big thank you to the Rotary Club of Fonthill for seeing this project brought to a successful conclusion.”
Councillors Bob Hildebrandt and Wayne Olson also watched the proceedings.
In contrast to ephemeral social media, said Hildebrandt, the arches “represent something tangible, that people can see, touch, and relate to. They are an element of tradition, something that integrates the community and brings people together. They represent part of an experience that impacts people on an emotional level. They represent a focal point for events in the community.”
Olson echoed this sentiment, saying the arches “add a great deal to the setting and they will for make a welcoming civic space. I like the fact they seem to rise out of the ground to a point just above our beautiful trees.” Both councillors also praised the Rotary Club and the volunteers involved in the effort.
The new arches’ inaugural event will come in just a little over two weeks, as Pelham hosts the Canada Summer Games bike races, with the start and finish of the races to occur under the new structure on Thursday, August 18.