Manitoulin Municipal Association supports MTO swing bridge heritage report recommendations

An artist’s rendering of the new double-lane swing bridge.

MANITOULIN – The Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) is in support of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) recommendations to the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries’ (HSTCI) to remove and/or the demolition of the Little Current swing bridge once the new similar bridge is constructed to replace it. The MMA is also calling on the province to expedite the construction process.

“If there is anything at all this group can do to expedite the entire process that would be good,” said Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island at a meeting last week. “I’ve read the report (carried out by Stantec Consulting Limited for the MTO) for a similar bridge to be constructed with two lanes of traffic. It’s a sound document and they (Stantec) have done their homework.” 

“And the sympathetic design of the new bridge that is being recommended will be supported by most people,” said Reeve Hayden. “The new bridge will welcome people to Manitoulin Island and cut down on the traffic congestion. If this can be sent back to councils for support and for the ministrys to expedite the project, it would be great.” 

Reeve Hayden had noted that, “ in The Expositor this week, it was reported that Gordon/Barrie Island council had dealt with the (MTO) request and supports it. I’m just wondering if other councils have had the opportunity to discuss the request.” 

“We did Monday night,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson. “One thing we observed in the document is that we didn’t see anything that suggests a start date for the project.” 

Reeve Hayden pointed out that since a chance for input on the MTO recommendation has been given, then the recommendation will be made from the MTO to the Minister of (HSTCI).

Al MacNevin, mayor of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) told the meeting his council, “discussed the report and recommendation last night. I go back to the executive summary of the report and what they are recommending. In summary, the second page indicates they will look at ways to commemorate the (existing) structure, document the bridge prior to its removal and look at a sympathetic design of the replacement bridge, including use of salvaged materials in the new design where practicable, and have determined the only viable option is the removal and/or demolition of the existing swing bridge, and that they will be seeking consent from the ministry on this. Comments on the recommendations have to be in by February 7.”

“Our council is sort of comfortable with the recommendation, although a couple of councillors don’t appear to be comfortable with removing the current bridge,” said Mayor MacNevin. “When it was indicated the current bridge could be relocated somewhere else, I was thinking Phoenix (Arizona) or maybe beside the London Bridge. We basically support the recommendation.”

“So you don’t want it (the current bridge) in your yard?” asked Ken Noland, MMA chair. 

“There is one born every minute,”  stated Mayor MacNevin. “I can’t conceive where the money would come to relocate the (current) bridge. Some people feel we should swing the bridge open and leave it that way but they (MTO) said that would be a major problem for navigation purposes.”

Mayor MacNevin also told the meeting, “the MTO sent a letter to myself and Patsy Corbiere (chief of the Aundeck Omni First Nation) explaining that on January 26, the MTO is going to be carrying out a day of maintenance on the bridge. They are doing seismic testing on the bridge from 9 am to 3 pm and the bridge will be closed for 15 minutes on the hour. He assured me that there will be signage posted at the bridge, and we’re (NEMI) going to be  posting a notice of this on our website.”

A motion for the MMA to support the study and recommendations in the study by the MTO was put forward by Reeve Hayden and was seconded by Mayor MacNevin.

The executive summary of the report noted in part, “this heritage impact assessment (HIA) will be used to support MTO’s request for the MHSTCI minister’s consent for demolition or removal of the Little Current Swing Bridge. To mitigate the loss of CHVI associated with removal of the Little Current swing bridge, a series of mitigative measures is proposed including: documentation of the bridge prior to removal, commemoration of the bridge, and sympathetic design of the replacement bridge, including use of salvaged materials in the new design where practicable.”