Possible Pardon For Troubled Trestle

New hope for kinsol: Politicos on side with local firm that says restoration possible for less money than replacement bridge

About four million bucks.

That's what it will cost to restore the Kinsol Trestle to its former glory, according to a pair of men who've made a painstaking study of the wooden structure and say they can do the job.

For less than what they're considering spending on a look-alike bridge - which will not be historically correct - we feel we can deliver the real deal and guarantee a service life which meets or exceeds the life of the bridge they're considering building, said Gordon Macdonald, of Cobble Hills's Macdonald and Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd.

Macdonald and his business partner, Steve Lawrence, spent several hours Monday on the trestle, then went back to the bridge Tuesday with a pair of engineers from Canmore, Alberta.

The consensus, said Macdonald, is the trestle can be restored for less than the $4.5 million that's been discussed to raze, then rebuild the bridgeway.

We had to check out some hot spots identified by other engineers, he said.

Specifically Macdonald and Lawrence checked the Howe trusses, an assembly of metal rods and timbers which carry the trestle.

A previous engineer's report completed for the province indicated the trestle could be repaired, but it would be costly.

There is a way to make a cost-efficient repair to the trusses, said Macdonald, It's really not that big a deal.

Still, said Macdonald, there is much of the trestle that's not salvageable.

We accept there's a lot of timber that has to be replaced, he said, noting in terms of the number of pieces, between 70 and 80 per cent would have to be substituted with fresh wood.

All of the smaller braces are shot and need to be replaced, the bigger more stout primary timbers are in generally good condition, Macdonald said.

The good news is the trestle can be restored - not replaced or modified - for less than what was originally thought.

Our initial assessment is the bridge can be conserved for south of $4 million, said Macdonald, who along with his partner, is uniquely positioned to do the job.

Lawrence did extensive work on Windsor Castle after the royal residence burned in a fire during the mid-80s. That work earned him personal thanks from Queen Elizabeth II.

Macdonald is no stranger to News Leader Pictorial readers either; he was recently profiled for his work in the Antarctic where he laboured to restore Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Hut, a structure listed as one of the World Monuments Watch's 100 most endangered sites.

We have a unique situation here, said Macdonald, (The trestle) is an important piece of Canadian heritage and we have the expertise locally to conserve that heritage and make a proper job of it.

It appears the timber partners have some political clout on their side.

Macdonald had a private, one-hour meeting Wednesday with Cowichan Valley Regional District chair Jack Peake

I came out of it optimistic, I felt encouraged, Macdonald said.

He should because Peake is a fan of the man and his plan.

Gord came forward with a plan that has 100 per cent credibility because of who he and his partner are, said Peake.

Their proposals make a ton of sense at a cost less than has already been identified.

Peake said he may call a special board meeting so the other CVRD directors can hear the restoration plan.

I'm going to make every effort possible to make sure the CVRD board hears what these folks have to say and buy into what I think is a very credible plan, he said.

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder is also a supporter of the timber men's plan to restore the trestle.

I will absolutely throw my political weight behind it, she told the News Leader Pictorial.

Crowder said she feels there's growing, grass-roots support to restore the historic bridge.

I am a fan of the trestle, she said.

The Kinsol Trestle is one of a kind and part of the history of the Valley that could be a world class draw.

If we lose it we'll never replace the historical significance of it.

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