This is one of a rapidly disappearing example of a unique group of concrete bowstring through arch bridges, sometimes called "rainbow arch" bridges remaining in the township of Centre-Wellington. The bridge exhibits excellent historic integrity with no major alterations detected. Some of the railing segments are badly damaged. There is a single overhead brace connecting the two arches on the bridge. The attractive arched brace was more profoundly arched than other bridges of this type in Centre-Wellington. Sadly, a revisit to this bridge in 2015 led to the discovery that this unique brace had been removed and replaced with an ugly steel beam. A photo of the bridge today is shown at the end of this narrative.
While Ontario has a number of remaining such bridges in the province, for many years, Centre-Wellington has been noted for an especially large collection. However these bridges are being demolished at an alarming rate. Most alarming is a statement recorded in the March 29, 2011 minutes by the heritage committee. The following is an exact quotation:
Kathy gave an overview of the situation on bridges that are slated for replacement. She noted that there are 10 Bowstring bridges left in our township and that, according to Ken Elder, the main reason for replacing these bridges is to provide adequate access for farm machinery. Kathy further advised that the only one that they can consider saving is the one near Portage.
Discussion ensued regarding current standards for bridges and the cost to save vs. replacement. Dave noted the Eden Mills bridge replacement several years ago and suggested that they be approached to ask what safety standards etc. they used to construct a sympathetic replacement.
What do do? Possibly recommend designation and maintenance of one good example of this type of bridge such as the Irvine Street bridge. Don wondered whether there is any validity in closing some of these roads/bridges?
A plaque for replacement of each bridge was suggested and the committee agreed to pursue designation of the Irvine Street bridge.
What these minutes indicate is truly alarming. This is an official statement by Centre-Wellington that they plan to demolish nine of the ten bowstring bridges remaining in 2011, and only even consider saving a the one remaining example. In other words, not even an attempt to save nine of the bridges will be made, and the tenth bridge will be merely considered for preservation. Granted, it is true that not every heritage bridge everywhere can be saved. However, it seems reasonable to suggest that saving only one out of ten bridges, and even the one not for certain, is not showing the strongest commitment to heritage preservation. Many of these bridges are in highly rural locations. A study of each bridge should be conducted to evaluate preservation possibilities. These bridges have been sufficient for traffic in this area for decades. Have the traffic needs suddenly changed so drastically within the past year that suddenly 9/10 bridges need to be replaced? Could any of the bridges instead be rehabilitated for continued vehicular use? Nearby alternative crossings on parallel roads may provide an unrestricted crossing for vehicles for any height, width, and weight restrictions a rehabilitated bowstring might impose. Alternatively, some bridges might be able to be left in place either for pedestrians or closed to all traffic, with a new bridge constructed next to the heritage bridge. Many of these bridges are not located near any homes or other buildings, so there is room to have two bridges side by side without disrupting much.
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