Time Ticking On Kinsol Trestle Decision

One way or the other, the Kinsol Trestle issue must be resolved, warned a government official as the district scrambles to find money for an assessment of the old wooden bridge.

At a special meeting Thursday night, Cowichan Valley Region District directors heard from two delegations; one that promised it could restore the trestle, the second that said the best approach would be to build a new one.

The board asked its accountant, Mark Kueber, to find $160,000 to fund a study that would determine the best way to treat the trestle, either by restoration or by erecting a newer structure in its place.

We do have reserve funds that could be used for such a study, Kueber said.

Gordon Macdonald, of Macdonald and Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd. told the board the trestle is in pretty good shape for an older structure and it's possible to restore it to its former grandeur.

We feel it can be done for about four million bucks and it would have a life expectancy of 30 or 40 years, said Macdonald, a skilled craftsman who has worked on world heritage sites on three different continents.

Macdonald's method of fixing the trestle would be to start at both ends and work toward the middle, improving the structure along the way to finally link it to the Trans-Canada Trail.

Macdonald said the restoration would get the public onside with the project and, as important, convince people to empty their wallets to help defray the costs.

It's far easier to fundraise around an in peril treasure, rather than a hole in the ground, he said.

Macdonald reckoned once the restoration is complete, annual maintenance costs would be about $80,000.

However, James Klett, whose company Klett Consulting Services Ltd. did the 2004 structural assessment of the Kinsol, said he's convinced a new bridge would be safer and cheaper in the long run.

Believe it or not, one of the options we had earlier was to restore it, he told the board, and a packed gallery that included Malahat MLA John Horgan.

But rehabilitation is labour- and cost-intensive and we always had safety issues, said Klett, who has decades of engineering and bridge building experience.

Klett said a modified design of the trestle would look a little different than the original, but would last years longer than a restored Kinsol.

It makes sense to me to build the bridge now and open it to the public, he said.

It would last 40 to 50 years without any major restoration, he said, adding the maintenance costs over that lifespan would average out to about $10,000 per year.

No matter what is done with the trestle, the province wants to wash its hands of it, a spokesman for the ministry of transport told the board.

The ministry, one way or the other, wants to remove this liability from its book, Alan Callander said.

If the CVRD does do something to make that happen, we will remove the liability, he said.

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