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Courtenay's wooden bridge project could become documentary
A documentary could be in the works about the making of the proposed wooden pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the Courtenay River.
If the project goes ahead, the Timber Framers Guild would come to Courtenay to oversee this community building project.
TFG executive director Joel McCarty came from New Hampshire on Friday to check out the potential site of the bridge — and was filmed for a possible documentary of the bridge-building process.
As the Courtenay River People Bridge steering committee filmed, McCarty spoke about the project at Simms Millennium Park, where the bridge would reach across the river to the base of Sixth Street. He noted the benefits of building a bridge out of wood.
"It's forgiving and it's an economic material … we can prove it sort of hands down that a well-maintained wooden bridge will outlast its steel or concrete competitors," said McCarty said his kids used to ride a school bus across a wooden bridge that was in service for 205 years. "The upfront work is heavier but the lifecycle is much longer."
McCarty also noted that while the TFG has built bridges around the world — including a couple in Canada — this project could be the largest.
The covered bridge would be about 180 feet in length and feature an arched design for aesthetic appeal and structural integrity.
After a split vote in mid-April, Courtenay council approved spending $70,000 for research and design of the bridge. The City will also apply for $1.9 from the Gas Tax Innovations Fund for construction costs, as well as $1.75 million from the Gas Tax General Strategic Priorities Fund to repaint the Fifth Street bridge.
The deadline for applications is the end of this month.
Project organizers hope to start construction on the wooden bridge by summer 2013, which would see 70 to 100 timber carpenter volunteers in Courtenay for three to fours weeks to build the bridge alongside local volunteers of all skill levels.
"It doesn't matter about your gender or skill level or race or language — we've done it in languages that we don't speak," said McCarty. "We're also trying to send a real little more subtle or little more difficult to articulate message of the powerful value of collective action and the personal value that community service has."
The project style is designed to build community and education through the construction and teamwork, and McCarty said he doesn't think Courtenay will be short on volunteers.
"We wouldn't be talking to you guys and gals if we weren't convinced that this town had enough public service horsepower to put hundreds of people, all age groups and genders and experience levels on the ground for us to guide through the process of building and installing this bridge," said McCarty.