Article by: LAURA MACINNIS
David Coon says the province needs to start seeing old covered bridges as an asset rather than a burden.
The provincial Green party says the province should be doing more to recover its covered bridges that are not in use and is asking the province to consider the benefits they could have for New Brunswick economically. And not just for tourism.
With elections season approaching, Coon stopped in the region Tuesday at the Starkey Covered Bridge which has been out of commission since the spring flood and the Cherryvale Covered Bridge which has been out of commission for several years he spoke to residents about the loss to the community.
“With all these wooden bridges, you would think the province would be someone on staff with expertise in maintaining them,” he said.
He said their upkeep is not just important to the province’s road infrastructure and tourism, it could be a green industry creating jobs if the province were to embrace using the natural resources it has to continue to fix and even build new ones.
“Having bridges like these is a opportunity for what we call bioeconomy. We should be driving up the use of wood in construction, but instead we are using less. But here we have this forestry sector and we should be taking advantage of it,” he said. “Afterall, we built these bridges back when we were poor and now we are saying we can’t afford to maintain them?”
Bill Fraser told reporters in Fredericton earlier this month that the The Long Creek No. 1 bridge on Starkey Road, 15 minutes outside Sussex just off the Route 10, will only be available to pedestrians once fixed. Fraser said he hoped the bridge, built in 1912, would last longer by having no vehicular traffic on it.
He said this kind of infrastructure has culture significance and that is worth saving, but traffic safety will take priority.
But Coon thinks it is a mistake to think of the bridge’s historic significance as their only benefit to the province.
“These bridges have lasted as long as they did because of their design. Because they were covered it protected the deck and helped them last longer. There’s no reason we couldn’t be building new modern wood bridges either,” Coon said.
Green candidate for Gagetown-Petitcodiac Marilyn Merritt Gray lives in Kars and said she sees a real advantage to embracing the covered bridges too.
“There are companies in the province who specialize in these types of builds and I’m sure there are a lot of engineers and apprentices who would be eager to learn this stuff,” she said. “We have these beautiful waterways for boating and fishing and infrastructure like these bridges will draw tourists too.”
“The tourism appeal of these wooden bridges is apparent, but for some reason the province hasn’t done much with them in their tourism strategy,” Coon agreed.
Reace Black, member of the Canaan-Washademoak Watershed Association, said the loss of the Starkey Covered Bridge has been a huge loss to friends and family who were once neighbours that now have a 15 minute detour to get to the other side of the river. And he said the loss of the Cherryvale covered bridge was especially felt this winter.
“We had a sudden flood in January that wiped out the main road. People were isolated for three days until the water retreated. If the Cherryvale Bridge was still functional it would have been an alternate route,” Black said