Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Trail users flock to trestle grand re-opening

For the Bonnyville Nouvelle.

A large crowd was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Beaver River Trestle on June 24.
Eric Bowling

After four years of uncertainty, a popular local bridge that connects a trail between Bonnyville and Cold Lake celebrated its grand re-opening last week.

The Beaver River Trestle was celebrated by a large crowd of hikers, ATV riders, and other outdoor enthusiasts on June 24, almost four years to the day since the trestle had to be shut down after a group of ne’er do wells committed arson on the bridge, burning much of the trestle’s support beams.

“It’s good to see it finally restored,” commented Fred Wilton, who works with Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Getting to this point was a journey in itself. Acquiring the $1.6 million needed to repair the bridge took several years and came from multiple sources ranging from local municipalities to the provincial and federal governments.

“It took a little while, but it was worth it,” said North East Muni-Corr administrative coordinator Marianne Price. “We’re really proud of our 10 municipal partners who matched the funding from the provincial government.”

The province pitched in close to $300,000 for the restoration. Price added that the trestle benefitted from a federal government program called the National Trails Coalition, which kicked in $380,000 on it’s own.

“We were very fortunate to be on the radar for the federal government,” noted Price. “We did do a couple of smaller fundraising events as well, which helped tremendously.”

MLAs from three separate ridings were on hand for the ribbon cutting. Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr thanked the provincial government for the funding and praised the grassroots effort to get the trestle back up and running.

“The more we connect our communities, the better,” noted Cyr. “It’s great to see we can work together to accomplish great things. We need to recognize the Minister of Culture of Tourism, Ricardo Miranda. What happened was he was nice enough to sit down with our board and get this done. Hopefully we can continue to work with the minister to continue work on local trails.”

Plans are now underway to replace the gates on the trail accessing the bridge and ensure that it is only being used for the recreation it is intended for.

“I can’t say enough times that vehicles are not allowed on the Iron Horse Trail,” said Price. “It’s for ATVs, snowmobiles, hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. We would deeply appreciate it if trucks and cars would stay off it.”

Another feature of the restored trestle is the addition of lookout points along the bridge to allow for viewing of planes taking off and landing from CFB 4-Wing in Cold Lake, which borders the trail.

“The trestle is on the flight path from the base,” explained Price. “We used to have the platforms on the side of the bridge fenced off with wiring fencing. Every time we would come out here someone would have cut the fencing so they could stand on the platform that had no railing on them. So when we rebuilt the bridge we designed the platforms into the railing.”

Local resident Doris Cory was ecstatic that the bridge was finally opened for use again.

“I think it’s great. Some people around think it’s noisy, but it’s not. My kids and I use it a lot. It’s good to have a trail, good for the people and good for the community,” expressed Cory.

The Beaver River Trestle was opened for pubic use after CN Rail stopped using it for rail transport in 1999. The bridge opened to pedestrians as part of the Iron Horse Trail in 2003 and was in service until 2012 when three local youth lit a car on fire at the base of the bridge on June 22.

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