New Brunswick

Demolition of Hoyt's 87-year-old Bell Bridge is underway

The demolition of what remains of the severely damaged Bell Bridge began Wednesday.

Some residents devastated as government moves swiftly to replace historic bridge with modular one

The 87-year-old Bell Bridge near Hoyt is being torn down to make way for a modular bridge to reconnect the stranded community of Juvenile Settlement. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Demolition of what remains of the severely damaged Bell Bridge near Hoyt, south of Fredericton, is underway. 

Construction crews started taking the covered bridge apart with excavators, butane torches and chainsaws on Wednesday morning, two days after the 87-year-old historic structure was deemed unsalvageable by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Flooding tore sections of the bridge apart last weekend, leaving the bridge over the Oromocto River unsafe for use.

First time I've ever seen the government act so fast.- Addison Sweet, Hoyt

"To see this come down so quickly is so devastating," said Hoyt resident Debbie McCann.

Sections of the roof of the bridge have been clawed apart by a pair of excavators, one on each side of the South Branch of the river.

Workers started to dig out portions of its foundation late Wednesday afternoon.

McCann had been working to save a portion of the bridge for the local historical society.

"By saving the entrance and the exit and a little portion in between, tear it apart, put it on the historical site where there are a number of other historical structures located, and perhaps even making it the entrance of the historical site, with the signs and everything still on it," said McCann.  

"But unfortunately, we are too late." 

The bridge will be replaced by a modular bridge within six to eight weeks, according to the Transportation Department.

The community of Juvenile Settlement, across the river from Hoyt, is almost completely cut off without a bridge.

An old logging road is now the only way in and out of the community, and emergency response times will be impacted while the link is missing, despite work to improve the woods road.

"As far as I know, the back road has been graded and sanded," said Chief Daryl Price of the Hoyt Fire Department, who took the hour-long detour to check on the stranded families early this week. "And they've made it more accessible than when we were there on Monday." 

Gone forever 

Despite the urgency to reconnect Juvenile Settlement, the demolition came too fast for some. 

"First time I've ever seen the government act so fast," said Addison Sweet, a Hoyt resident who lives on the same road as the Bell Bridge. "Everyone realizes the urgency for the people on the other side that are stranded, but once it's gone it's gone." 

"Another part of rural New Brunswick gone forever. Sad day for everyone."

Jeff Carr, the MLA for New Maryland-Sunbury, was working with McCann to try to save a portion of the bridge using cranes.

"It's a great part of our history," Carr said. 

Hours before the demolition began, Carr suggested one possibility.

"Lift that bridge off, if not in one section, in two sections, and set it aside."

Demolition work is to continue Thursday.