Courtenay wooden bridge supporters not giving up in spite of setback

Although a grant for the proposed wooden bridge in downtown Courtenay was turned down, project supporters say they won't give up.

"We're moving forward in getting the funding to make it happen," Phillipa Atwood, president elect for the Rotary Club of Strathcona Sunrise, told Courtenay council Monday, adding fundraising will likely play a big role in generating the money. "We want to work to make this happen."

The City of Courtenay applied for a $1.9-million grant under the Gas Tax Innovation Fund in May, but was notified late last month that the application was unsuccessful.

The City's application to the Gas Tax General Strategic Priorities Fund for $1.75 million to recoat the Fifth Street Bridge was also unsuccessful.

Courtenay spent $70,000 on a feasibility study for the proposed wooden bridge project — which would see a pedestrian/cyclist bridge built across the Courtenay River between Simms Millennium Park and Sixth Street — but council voted unanimously Monday to stop City spending on the project there.

Staff will still be available to lend their expertise to the project.

According to a report from Kevin Lagan, Courtenay's director of operational services, the project is feasible and the estimated cost of construction is $2.8 million, not including geotechnical considerations.

However, "This estimate was generated as a 'retail value' cost of construction and does not include any reductions in costs that may be generated through the Courtenay River People Bridge Steering Committee," wrote Lagan in his report.

A letter to council from Harry Holland, chair of the steering committee, noted other similar community bridge building projects saw organizations, businesses and individuals donate funding, goods and services and other contributions.

Also, the Timber Framers Guild, a non-profit educational association, is still keen on overseeing construction, according to a letter to council from the association's Randy Churchill.

"In Courtenay I have roughly planned for the active involvement on the project of approximately 500 to 600 people, including about 100 professional volunteers from around the world," he added in his letter. "This will result in national attention and lots of goodwill for the community to enjoy for years, not to mention the creation of a valuable tangible asset for very small relative expense."

Because of the guild's involvement and various community contributions, Holland expects the actual cost of the project to be much lower.

"We feel the total project costs would equate to 50 per cent of the feasibility study projection," he added in his letter.

Holland also noted the $2.8-million estimate is for a modified burr arch-truss design, while the estimate for a burr arch design is $3.71 million.

Atwood noted the lower cost design, which could feature a mix of wood and other materials, may be a good way to go.

She added the four local Rotary Clubs — Strathcona Sunrise, Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland — support the bridge, and consider it a "fabulous project." The Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association, and a number of other local groups and organizations have also voiced their support for the project.

Atwood said the steering committee will continue to look into other possible revenue sources, like grants, but supporters are prepared to fundraise 100 per cent of the costs if needed.

Because there is plenty of fundraising to do, she said the project timeline is up in the air.

Mayor Larry Jangula asked if another location could be considered, noting some community members are unhappy with the proposed crossing at Simms and Sixth Street. Atwood responded that the steering committee could look into it.

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