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Giant Canadian flag to fly over Windsor riverfront

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by Ron Stang

This spring the City of Windsor will dedicate a large Canadian flag on the city’s waterfront.
Giant Canadian flag to fly over Windsor riverfront

It's so large it will be seen far and wide from both the Canadian and American sides of the Detroit River.

The 1,800-square-foot flag, in planning for five years but originally proposed in 1980, will fly from a 150-foot pole, symbolizing Canada's 150th birthday this year.

It will be clearly visible as motorists drive into downtown Windsor along Ouellette Avenue, one of the city's main gateways.

A community effort has been underway to raise $355,000 — $200,000 for construction and the remainder for maintenance and taxes. Almost $300,000 has been raised to date. It's known as the Great Canadian Flag Project and is sponsored by the Windsor Essex Community Foundation, a local civic and charitable group.

Groundbreaking took place along the Windsor waterfront in January. Work is set to begin this month as soon as contractors, headed by Windsor's Woodall Construction Co. Ltd., receive the anchor bolt assembly from the Whitney, Ont. flag pole manufacturer, Ewing Flagpoles.

The installation is being built about 25 feet from the Detroit River in what had been a vehicle turn circle linking city streets and a riverfront parking lot. The circle is being relocated.

The first step in construction is to dig a four-foot-deep, 13-foot-square excavation. It will then be filled with nine, 18-inch-diameter helical piles, augured to a depth of 70 feet, to support the gigantic pole in some questionable soil.

"We've got some really bad ground," says project manager Dave Woodall, who is donating his time to the project along with several other businesses, though certain subcontractors will be paid. "That's why we're going so deep."

The riverfront property used to be an industrial area with railroad tracks and there are remnants of building foundations, timbers and dock walls below surface.

However, test holes were dug and no objects were hit.

"We do know that the top 30 feet or so is very soft ground, a mix of old fill, and then we're getting down into just some poor soil because it is along the river," Woodall says. "Down about 50 feet we hit some solid clay."

Nine piles will be used and three days have been scheduled for their installation. The piles will be spaced three feet apart, all angled at 10 degrees, except for the centre pile. The angled piles are to counteract wind load on the 15,000-pound flagpole. The centre pile takes up the vertical load.

The piles will be capped with a nine-foot square by four-foot thick reinforced concrete mat footing below grade. Once the footing is completed, the area around it will be backfilled and the pavement restored with a new pedestrian plaza.

On top of the foundation will be an octagonal pier above grade to a height of four feet. Within the pier and footing will be the cylindrical anchor bolt assembly consisting of 12 two-inch-diameter, 10-foot-long anchor bolts.

The eight faces of the pier will contain alternating formed maple leaves along with rectangular recesses for plaques.

The flagpole, made of steel with a painted epoxy coating, measures two feet in diameter at the base and eight inches at the top.

About 12 feet from the base — 16 feet above grade — there will be four LED up-facing spotlights, each with 240 lamps, automatically turned on at dusk by photo cells. The flag will fly day and night.

Woodall's commitment to the project follows on his company's work on two identical monuments — one in France and the other in Windsor — dedicated to a famed Windsor military unit, the Essex and Kent Scottish, who participated in the 1942 Dieppe Raid during the Second World War.

"I believe in giving back to the community and this was an idea that came up that just caught my fancy," Woodall says.

He says the community has been overwhelmingly generous in contributing money. People and businesses donated "from a toonie to $25,000. It's just been marvellous that way because it lets everybody get involved."

The project also received funding from Ottawa's Canada 150 Fund.

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