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Courtenay council warm to idea of pedestrian bridge

Courtenay council was generally supportive of building a covered pedestrian/cycling bridge across the Courtenay River.
Council unanimously passed a motion to 'recognize' the Courtenay River People Bridge Steering Committee after a delegation came before council Monday.
The chambers were packed with people interested in building what would be the longest covered wooden timber frame bridge in Western Canada over the Courtenay River — by summer of 2013.
"If we continue prudent and thoughtful planning now, we can all celebrate this achievement by the summer of 2013," said Timber Framers Guild director Randy Churchill, who pledged the TFG's commitment to help build the bridge. "If we let off the gas now that window will close to us very soon."
The proposed bridge would go from Simms Millennium Park to the base of Sixth Street.
According to steering committee chair Harry Holland, only a small portion of funding for the project would come from the City.
"The City's actual cost is expected to be only a small percentage of the total cost," said Holland, adding that he plans to obtain a third of the necessary funding from the provincial government, a third from the federal government, and the majority of the remainder from fundraising.
He added that Comox Valley MLA Don McRae and Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan have shown interest in the project, and he's confident that federal and provincial government funding would be forthcoming.
The project cost is targeted at $1 to $1.5 million, but the committee said plans need to be drawn up to further refine the cost. The steering committee has spoken to numerous environmental agencies, and Churchill said talks have been positive, but more information — from plans — is needed to move forward with approvals.
Along with its request for recognition from the City, the committee asked for the City's co-operation to move on with the design stage.
Coun. Bill Anglin said he understood the committee's predicament, calling it a "chicken and egg" scenario, but asked Holland if it was possible to get a further refined dollar amount soon to help councillors in their decision. Holland agreed.
A feasibility report for a pedestrian/cyclist bridge was already in the works at City Hall. It's expected to be presented to council in about a month, but City director of operational services Kevin Lagan said he would try to finish it within two weeks.
Coun. Jon Ambler said he supported the group's efforts and that City recognition would help in its endeavours.
"This group has got great energy and great focus and very positive, and what they need is authority to proceed and to be able to speak and say that... there's a single group working on this," said Ambler. "I think that's what recognition the City of Courtenay will be able to provide."
Coun. Starr Winchester suggested contacting the Comox Valley Regional District for support, and noted that it offers a few grants the committee may qualify for.
Coun. Manno Theos said the project idea has potential, but was doubtful of funding coming from government, noting that the City asked for government funding for the repainting of the Fifth Street bridge and was denied.
"There's no money," said Theos. "In reality, this is a good first step but if there was that money around, I think we would have accessed it for the Fifth Street bridge. That's my reality after being on this council for a number of years."
Other supporters who spoke on behalf of the project included Strathcona/Sunrise Rotary president Lynn Brandon, who also represented the Cumberland and Courtenay Rotary clubs; and Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association president Mark Middleton.
Middleton told the Record that the DCBIA made a motion to endorse the project by writing a letter of support at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.
Holland said he's confident the community will come together around the project, and noted that he's had offers of endowments and donations for goods and services from local clubs, individuals and businesses.
For more information visit www.cvbridgeproject.com.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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