It’s an old rusty bridge that goes nowhere.
Yet on June 4, the gymnasium of Bright’s Grove Public School filled up with a standing-room only crowd of nearly 200 vocal residents eager to talk about the Cull Drain Bridge.
The scenic bridge was built across the mouth of the Cull Drain in 1910 to link Sarnia and Bright’s Grove on the old Lakeshore Road.
When storms decimated the shoreline and the ”new” Lakeshore Road was opened, the bridge fell into disuse. It was closed and fenced off after being deemed unsafe two years ago.
What happens next is of keen interest to neighbours, cyclists, heritage buffs and land developers, who showed up in full force to hear city hall staff outline three possible options.
What they heard was discouraging to those hoping to save the 104-year-old structure from demolition.
It would cost $50,000 just to remove the span, and $250,000 to $400,000 to replace it with a narrow pedestrian bridge, said city engineer Andre Morin.
Restoring the bridge to its former glory could cost a whopping $1 million in structural repairs, sandblasting and coatings, according to new engineering estimates.
Friends of the Cull Drain Bridge is a citizen group founded to save the heritage structure, which is a rare example of a locally-built truss bridge, redolent of history and located in a scenic spot on the Lake Huron shoreline, east of Telfer Road.
It has withstood a century of lake storms and replacing it now with a “mail order bridge” would be wrong, said organizer Steve Loxton.
Others, including Bluewater Trails and the Lambton Outdoor Club, said a bridge is key to increasing the city’s trail system.
City planner Max Williams said a Heritage Committee assessment found the bridge has “considerable heritage merit” and should be placed on an inventory list for city council consideration. That could increase the odds of outside funding.
But complicating the issue is the muddled status of the old road right-of-way to the east. A path that currently runs from the bridge to Lakeshore Road crosses private property.
Sarnia is in talks with Suncor Energy, which owns a nearby recreation centre, to work out “a realistic easement,” Morin said.
“Hopefully, that will pan out.”
A staff report with costing estimates, heritage recommendations and shoreline protection plans will be presented to council for debate on June 30.
Residents have until June 18 to email their comments to [email protected].
– George Mathewson