MANITOULIN – The bridge over Rogers Creek at the border of Assiginack and Tehkummah is slated for replacement following an agreement in principle between the two townships that went to the Assiginack council table for approval yesterday, August 4.
“We’re going to be moving ahead with the bridge,” said Tehkummah clerk-administrator Silvio Berti, whose council approved the plan in principle at a July 28 meeting. “It’s good news that we’re getting that bridge open again at a reasonable cost.”
Assiginack Mayor Dave Ham and that township’s public works superintendent Ron Cooper gave a presentation to Tehkummah council to discuss the proposed solution.
The bridge has been closed for five years. Replacement cost estimates have ranged from $250,000 to $750,000, but two area residents—Andy Bowerman and Jim Mortimer—brought forward a solution for about $90,000 in 2015 when the issue first emerged.
Their plan was to use a modular steel bridge to span the gap. It would rest on the ground on either side and not require the same approvals as rebuilding the existing structure.
The file has remained relatively still in the past five years but the idea of a steel bridge recently resurfaced at an Assiginack council meeting, with an estimated cost of about $100,000. Tehkummah is seeking to contribute its portion over some time as it was not in the budget for this year.
“It’s been a very contentious area but I’m glad to see they’re finally putting their heads around it,” said Mr. Mortimer, who is finally seeing progress on his original idea.
He and neighbour Mr. Bowerman included details such as tonnage, length and proposed costs in their presentation to council. The two visited a bridge company to see its products in person and make sure they would be appropriate.
Mr. Bowerman has property on both sides of the creek and must drive several kilometres around since the bridge closed. He has advocated for the bridge in recent years.
“I’ve got a list of about 300 taxpayers from both townships that wanted to see this bridge replaced,” he said. “Dave (Ham) called me up recently and said it was going to go ahead, and I said ‘well, you’ve told us that before.’”
Mr. Bowerman estimated that the original bridge was more than 100 years old, but it had been rebuilt around 1974.
Assiginack CAO Alton Hobbs said his councillors were likely to approve the bridge because of their recent interest. That meeting took place after press deadline for this newspaper.
The bridge will be cost-shared between the two municipalities and no timeline has been established. If the company has stock and municipal crews are available, it could be installed as soon as this fall.
Manitoulin Bears Inn co-owner Rick McCann said he was excited to hear the news about the bridge replacement, especially because the bridge closure has confused some customers who worry when they see these signs.
“They actually let us put a sign near the bridge closed notice to say Bears Inn was still open,” said Mr. McCann.
“For people who live near here and want to get to the other side, they have to go all around the block. It’s going to make a hell of a difference,” he added.
The bridge reopening should be popular among the recreational traffic that uses the route, including quadders and cyclists.