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Heritage group worries over bridge plans

LYNDHURST – The Leeds and Thousand Islands Municipal Heritage Committee was moved to issue a resolution aimed at preventing, or at least slowing down, any perceived plans to alter the look of the historic Lyndhurst Bridge.

“We’re concerned about this, because in our experience these proposals can move along at their own speed and as volunteers we’re not always in the loop until after the fact,” said Keith Sly, spokesman for the municipal heritage committee.

In 2017, the township hired J.W. Taylor to look at ways to link public lands within the village of Lyndhurst. In early 2018 the consultant came back with a concept presentation, proposing a pedestrian bridge adjacent to the Lyndhurst Bridge on the north side. The concept illustration shows a metal pedestrian bridge running alongside the stone bridge, with footings anchored in the river.

“The proposal for a self-supporting pedestrian bridge on the north side would block the most valuable view – the south side is also important but is not as attractive,” explained Art Shaw, municipal heritage committee member.

The heritage committee’s resolution points out that a municipal class environmental assessment (MCEA) would have to be completed before any proposed construction could occur, triggering a heritage impact assessment and consultations with the Ontario Heritage Trust and the local committee.

“There is an easement on either side of the bridge with Ontario Heritage Trust, and the MCEA required consultation with Heritage Trust is something that has to happen before we can move forward,” Marnie Venditti, the township's director of planning and development, told the committee.

Built in 1857, 10 years before Confederation, the Lyndhurst Bridge, a stone arch bridge spanning the Gananoque River, is believed to be the oldest surviving bridge in Ontario. Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, the historic landmark is raising concerns over safety.

“We don’t want to ruin the view from either side, but I think something can come of this – perhaps a floating structure on the water… I don’t know, but I look forward to a report coming forward,” said Coun. Jeff Lackie.

Other members of council, while respectful of the heritage, expressed concern over the safety of residents and visitors who cross the bridge on foot, especially during festivals such the Turkey Fair.

“As much as I understand the concerns of the heritage committee, I would hate to see some injury or death happen because we’re not moving forward on this,” said Coun. Brian Mabee.

Since the bridge is part of a county road, the county would have to be involved in any alterations, even though moving pedestrians is not part of the county’s mandate, according to Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.

In its current configuration, the bridge can only take one car at a time, on a courtesy basis, and while there is technically room for a car and a pedestrian walkway, there is no sidewalk and delivery trucks also use the bridge; these wider vehicles take up most of the bridge’s width, leaving little room for pedestrians or cyclists to cross safely.

“It makes me a bit sad that the heritage committee would feel the need to put this in writing,” said the mayor, adding: “We’re not going to move forward with anything without public consultation.”

Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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