Trail’s old bridge left out of ambitious downtown plan

Is it right to have left Trail's Old Bridge out of the upcoming Downtown Revitalization Plan?

The good news is the downtown revitalization plan unveiled this week appears to check almost all of the boxes.

Sprucing up the core, making it more luring to tourists, offering more opportunities to explore Trail on foot, offering incentives for businesses to liven up the buildings and a general consensus that the goals are within reach and not some utopian vision of what we would all want Trail to become at any price.

That said, it’s unfortunate the old Trail bridge, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its opening last week, wasn’t factored into any revitalization plans.

I don’t want to dig up the old debate about bridge but frankly it will weigh on the entire revitalization plan.

And I understand the plan only covers the downtown region and stops short of the old bridge.

However, imagine a rusting old bridge that hasn’t been tended to for years lurking in the background view of anyone strolling down the revamped Esplanade.

Imagine a group of tourists walking around downtown, following the paths out to the beautiful and serene parks at the edge of the Esplanade only to come to a dead end at the un-kept, rusting bridge.

If there’s one thing Nelson has learned in its attempts to enhance its beautiful downtown area, it’s that the old CP Rail yards by the lake are an eyesore compared to the extensive work done elsewhere in the city.

The well-kept heritage homes and pristine lakeshore are in stark contrast to the buildings with broken windows tying up some of the best sites in the city.

Their hands are tied somewhat since the city doesn’t own those yards and has little say in its upkeep.

But that doesn’t stand in the way of the City of Trail. The city owns the bridge, or rather inherited it from the province.

The old bridge was closed permanently two years ago after an inspection revealed significant deterioration of the steel shells surrounding its piers. Trail went to the citizens and asked them if they wanted to foot the bill for a new crossing.

The citizens spoke, albeit only about a quarter of taxpayers, and said they didn’t support a tax hike to build a new bridge.

So it remained closed, which leaves us with a rusting old bridge and the Victoria Street Bridge book-ending the revitalization plans.

The question surrounding the ability of the old bridge to support foot traffic has never been an issue, said the city.

Engineers told the city it was the weight of the structure that was suspect, not the addition of walkers.

Of course, in this day an age insurance and liability overrule everything else, including common sense, and so we sit with a bridge still standing, people who want to walk on it and basically a plan of waiting until it crumbles because the cost of demolishing it is almost as expensive as fixing it.

I often wonder about the old “liability and insurance,” excuse.

After all people swim at Gyro Park all the time and, sadly, lives have been lost. Yet the city hasn’t closed down the beach.

As far as I’m concerned, you go swimming at your own risk. The city can put up signs and ropes to warn people of the dangers but that’s all they have to do it that instance.

Our growing system of hiking trails might cross paths with bears or cougars or even make for treacherous footing but there are no liability concerns about the potential deadly dangers.

In fact, boats continue to float along on the Columbia River under the old bridge despite concerns that it could fall at any minute.

One would think a barrage of signs and warnings would suffice for those wanting to walk across the bridge but that’s where my legal knowledge ends and more questions begin.

Engineers claim the major problem with the bridge is the deterioration of the river piers and the connecting piece between the piers called a strut, which holds the two piers in place. The steel from the strut is corroded and the concrete inside the strut has been reduced to loose gravel.

It would seem with the wealth of knowledge just down the road at the Waneta Dam, there should be some way of tapping into the minds of those that can build those types of structures just a few miles downstream.

I don’t want to rain on the parade of the revitalization plan; it’s definitely a step in the right direction and a much-needed shot in the arm to bring life back into the downtown region.

That said the bridges are an important part of Trail’s history too. Having both open to pedestrians would allow citizens as well as visitors a healthy walk through downtown and the East Trail neighborhood.

In other words, to use the city’s own motto, a better means of Exploring your Trail.