Im­prove­ments slated this sum­mer for area around West Mon­trose cov­ered bridge

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

WHEN IT COMES TO im­prove­ments to the tourist ex­pe­ri­ence around the West Mon­trose cov­ered bridge, Wool­wich plans to start small and go from there.

Changes such as a new stop sign, re­flec­tor posts and bet­ter wash­room ameni­ties are in the works for this year. Other sug­ges­tions from the West Mon­trose Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion such as ad­di­tional park­ing at Gole Park and im­prove­ments to Let­son Park re­quire more study and fund­ing. Some kind of pub­lic ac­cess to the river, mean­while, is both a lo­gis­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial hur­dle with no easy an­swer, notes a staff re­port pre­sented last week to Wool­wich coun­cil.

The re­port comes on the heels of the res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tion, known as the BridgeKeep­ers, rais­ing con­cerns about safety and in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture around the 130-year-old struc­ture that has be­come a ma­jor tourist des­ti­na­tion in the town­ship. The group ar­gues the cur­rent setup

around the bridge isn’t up to snuff for some 60,000 peo­ple who visit the his­toric site each year.

This sum­mer, the town­ship can eas­ily carry out the ad­di­tion of an­other stop sign at the in­ter­sec­tion of Hill Street and Cov­ered Bridge Drive, for in­stance, said di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing and plan­ning Dan Ken­na­ley. The same is true of re­plac­ing five re­flec­tive posts ad­ja­cent to Let­son Park and un­der­tak­ing a traf­fic study.

Like­wise, the town­ship will move quickly to up­grade what passes for wash­room fa­cil­i­ties – one stan­dard porta potty in Let­son Park. This sum­mer, there’ll be two larger ac­ces­si­ble units in Let­son Park and an­other across the river in Gole Park.

One of the BridgeKeep­ers’ re­quests, the bury­ing of hy­dro lines around the bridge to en­hance the scenic view, is likely cost pro­hib­i­tive, Ken­na­ley sug­gested.

“Staff also be­lieve that this will be an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion which Water­loo North Hy­dro will ex­pect the Town­ship to pay for and that cost im­pli­ca­tions will, there­fore, need to be taken into ac­count,” he notes in the re­port.

Likely to prove more cum­ber­some is any move to pro­vide pub­lic ac­cess to the Grand River. Cur­rently, much of the land sur­round­ing the bridge is pri­vate prop­erty. Vis­i­tors rou­tinely tres­pass on res­i­dents’ prop­erty, whether launch­ing a ca­noe or hav­ing a pic­nic.

Coun. Pa­trick Mer­li­han noted a pub­lic ac­cess point would al­le­vi­ate that is­sue, but might not be what the res­i­dents favour.

The process would likely in­volve buy­ing or leas­ing land from a cur­rent owner, with cost be­ing an is­sue.

Coun. Mur­ray Martin pointed out that prob­lem is not a new one, with the prob­lem re­main­ing that the town­ship would essen­tially have to wait for some­one to make land avail­able and, if past ex­plo­rations are any in­di­ca­tion, the costs would be a ma­jor bar­rier.

With that in mind, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer David Bren­ne­man sug­gested the town­ship look at pro­vin­cial fund­ing that’s avail­able for just that river ac­cess pur­pose.

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