The Cull Drain Bridge could still be saved and for less money than city hall believes, an historic bridge expert says.
Nathan Holth said dropping the bridge into the creek to be dragged away by bulldozers – one option on the table – would cost nearly as much as removing it by crane intact for future restoration.
“It’s the oldest bridge of its kind in Ontario,” said Holth, the author of www.historicbridges.org.
“It was built by a Sarnia company so it’s part of Sarnia’s heritage, and its siting on the shores of Lake Huron is just gorgeous.”
At a hastily-called meeting on Aug. 7 city councillors voted to remove the bridge before it collapses and hurts someone. After a new engineering report cited serious structural problems in the 104-year-old span, they had little choice but to act.
“The time has come,” said engineer Michael Wallrap, noting children continue to play near the fenced-off structure on old Lakeshore Road.
Whether it’s scrapped soon or saved for restoration later will depend on cost estimates and other data city staff were tasked with collecting as quickly as possible. Council next meets Sept. 8.
Many residents oppose money being spent on an obscure and rusty bridge that goes nowhere and few can even find.
Sarnia already faces a million dollar deficit and more pressing headaches, including the restoration of Centennial Park, said Coun. Mike Kelch.
The passion of some to preserve heritage is understandable, he said.
“I get it. But there are two sides to this.”
Steve Loxton, of the citizen group Friends of the Cull Drain Bridge, has spearheaded the preservation effort. He advocates the “non-destructive” removal of the bridge so it can eventually be restored and returned to place.
Buying time will allow supporters to fundraise and seek heritage funding, because once it’s gone it can never be replaced, he said.
“We are trying to save the bridge for people who have yet to discover it, and for generations yet unborn.”
– Journal Staff