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I-Panels


 

 

Interpretive Panel:
the Forgotten Dig

(Click on a picture for larger view)

 

There were no crops, no money, and no jobs. This was a time of drought, the time of the Great Depression. Regina suffered along with the rest of the province as unemployment rose. Wascana Lake also felt the effects of the drought. The intense sun, the hot wind, and the lack of rain, all took their toll as the lake began to dry up.

In 1930, James F. Bryant, the Minister of Public Works, put together a plan which would benifit the city, and most importantly, provide Regina's unemployed with jobs. Taking advantage of a program in which the federal and provincial governments would assume half the cost of approved public works projects (and the city the other half), Bryant proposed the deepening of Wascana Lake and the widening of the Albert Street Bridge.

The widening of the Albert Street Bridge provided employment for more than 700 men. The bridge is 256 metres long, while the waterway is only 21 metres wide. Completed on November 30, 1930, the ornate bridge was dedicated to the province's fallen soldiers of World War I. The total cost of the project was $250, 000.

In August 1931, under a scorching sun, what little water remained in Wascana Lake was drained, and preparations were made to deepen it. Over the course of the next three months, 2107 men would excavate 91,200 cubic metres of dirt. In an attempt to create as much work as possible for the unemployed, no large equipment was used. The men, who were paid $18 a week, worked with hand shovels, picks, wheelbarrows, and horse drawn wagons. When the project was completed, the depth of Wascana Lake had increased from 5ft to 7ft at a total cost of $105,000. The excavated soil was used to create Willow and Spruce Islands and fieldstones were placed around the Islands to protect them from erosion.

 

"In the Dirty Thirties when times were tough
men dug out the lake bed-relief work was rough.
Under the hot summer sun with wagon and spade
-that's how Willow and Spruce Island's were made.
Over two thousand men toiled in the pit
from dawn until dusk they showed their true grit.
When the drought and depression finally passed,
they had created a legacy to last."

   from the book The Lake in the Middle of Town
   Neil Sawatzky