As its condition continues to worsen, Mayor Bryan King would like to see some needed repairs to the trestle bridge in Bishop’s Falls.
“The condition of the trestle is deteriorating quite badly. There’s a number of holes and broken boards, much of the wood is rotting,” King said. “There’s been little to no maintenance done on it. We’re concerned about safety and we’d like to see the province address it.
“Every day that goes by the potential risks increase so we’d like to see it done sooner rather than later.”
The bridge, first built in 1901, is a long stretch of wooden planks and boards that hovers above the Exploits River. The town has discouraged vehicles from using the bridge for several years, but King says it is still often travelled on by snow machines, quads and by people on foot.
“It used by dozens and dozens of snowmobiles and ATVs every day,” the mayor told The Central Voice. “It’s a very vital piece of that trail network. A lot of ATVs use it in the summertime to access Bishop’s Falls from across the province.”
Because of this, the town sees the bridge as a vital component in growing their tourism market.
“We’re looking to position ourselves as thee destination for adventure tourism, so it’s a major concern to have that trestle in place,” he said. “We need traffic to be able to access Bishop’s Falls and central Newfoundland in general.”
The tourism organization Adventure Central Newfoundland was contacted for an interview but a representative was not available by deadline.
According to King, this past summer saw a significant increase in complaints from travellers and residents concerned about the bridge’s condition.
Exploits MHA Jerry Dean surveyed the condition of the bridge with King during the summer. He says people who walk across the bridge need to be particularly careful.
“I’m certainly concerned right now for people walking across rather than four wheelers,” Dean said. “With missing boards and broken off timber, there are a handful of places where you need to watch where you’re walking.”
At the end of January, Dean and King met with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore. In an emailed response from the department, the minister said the government is prepared to consider an assessment of the trestle and potential partnerships to address any needed repairs.
King hopes for a meeting with the department again in the near future to further discuss having an engineer assess the trestle and determine what future repair work may entail.
The date for that meeting is yet to be set.
“We’re going to get together again to see if we can come up with a solution,” King said. “We want to get ahead of the game before it gets too serious. We don’t want to see anybody get injured.”