Reprieve or replace? Meeting held to discuss damaged covered bridge
Dozens of people spoke out at Monday night's meeting
Close to 150 people gathered in Hampton Monday night to hear the provincial government lay out a pair of options; repair or replace the 104-year-old Hammond River No. 2 covered bridge.
The covered bridge was closed in October after an excavator working on the structure dropped through it because it was to heavy.
"We can replace the bridge with a steel one and that will take about three months," said Alan Kerr, the district engineer for the Saint John region.
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"[Another] option is to repair the bridge and that will take, we think eight months."
Kerr also said there would be no compensation program for those impacted by bridge's closure, nor would any other options be considered.
"The province is not in the financial position to operate two bridges," said Kerr when asked about putting in a temporary bridge now, while repairs to the damaged covered bridge were completed.
Kerr said both options would cost about the same at around one million dollars.
A red herring?
Lindsay Legere, who attended the meeting, said she believes the three-month timeline is a red herring.
"The three-month timeline was sort of this pressure on people who are inconvenienced to try and force their hand to choose this new bridge," said Legere.
"People are going to choose the new bridge because it will give them less time lost. But in the end, it won't be three months. It will take them more than three months to tear down the old structure, fix what needs to be fixed and put up this new structure."
Kerr told the audience the timeline wasn't a ruse after multiple attendees voiced their opinion that it was.
Attendees also criticized the province for not recovering the cost of the damages to the bridge from the construction company that caused the closure.
Kerr reiterated an investigation by WorkSafeNB was ongoing and the purpose of the meeting was only going to focus on the two options at hand.
'It's a part of our history'
Cedric Boone, who also attended the meeting, said tearing down the bridge could harm tourism.
"We call ourselves Canada's picture province," said Boone.
"But how can we do that when we keep tearing tearing down everything that you'd want to take a picture of?"
Boone, who is firmly against the destruction of the covered bridge, also claims a personal connection to it.
"My grandfather was the foreman on lots of these bridges back in his day," said Boone.
"So he helped build this one and I get a sense a longing, and familiarity when I go through it... It's a part of our history, and it's a part of my history."
Ray Boucher, a member of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, said covered bridges are becoming more scarce in the province.
"Every year we're losing more and more covered bridges," said Boucher.
"Since New Brunswick is the only province on the Eastern coast that has covered bridges left we're losing a valuable resource when it comes to tourism."
There are now 60 covered bridges left standing in the province. Boucher said they should be treated like any historic structure.
"And they are as much as a heritage building as churches, schools, public buildings and even homes of famous people," said Boucher.
"We've lost four of these bridges in the period of five years."
Officials handed out a survey at the end of the meeting stating they would collect and tally them next week. They expect to make a decision on the future of the bridge in a few weeks.