On June 15, a crane was called to Fernie to place the framework of a bridge that has been three years in the making. Spanning Fairy Creek, the framework is the base structure of a pedestrian bridge that will link two sections of Fernie that were only previously accessible by riding or walking over the Highway 3 bridge.
“It is a connection between two otherwise isolated areas. It will offer opportunities for safe crossing at Fairy Creek. It will also go to enhance the well-being of our community through active lifestyle opportunities,” said the Chair of the Fernie Trails Alliance (FTA) Terry Nelson. “From the Fernie Trails Alliance perspective, and personally, I am really excited for this project. Seeing the bridge get lifted is the culmination of a couple of years work so it is a bit of a milestone seeing the bridge get set.”
Summit Lift Company was responsible for making the framework for the bridge. The Fernie-based enterprise is predominantly a ski lift company that maintains and installs second-hand ski lifts and implements avalanche guns and systems throughout North America. The company also does cross lifts and elevators.
“We are contracted to build a bicycle bridge across Fairy Creek in Fernie. We are at the Fernie Creek site where the steel section of the bridge is being put in today. It weighs 35,000 pounds currently, when the wood is put on it, it will weigh approximately 70,000 pounds,” said Matthew Curtis, manager of Summit Lift Company.
Regularly, the FTA would construct a bridge using cedar stringers instead of steel. This is because the structure had to be over-engineered as it is upstream from Highway 3. The mandate to over-engineer was to reduce the risk of the bridge collapsing and causing damage or potentially destroying the highway bridge, which serves as a major transportation artery to the area and B.C.
The next phase for the pedestrian bridge is decking, fencing and roofing by Larsen and Whalen Enterprises. Nelson warns potential users not to use the bridge until it is officially open.
“One thing we want to convey to the public is that the bridge will not be open until it is complete,” he said. “Just because there is a deck on the bridge does not mean it is open, it is still a construction site and work is being done. So we ask people to please stay away from the site.”
At the start of the year, the FTA only planned to execute Phase 1, where they would build a functioning bridge. Phase 2 was originally planned to be implemented in the spring and summer of 2017. A recent grant has allowed the FTA to include Phase 2 into the summer project.
“We received an additional $125,000 grant from the Columbia Basin Trust through the Recreation Infrastructure Program and that has allowed us to do the landscaping, put the roof on the bridge and pave the trail approaches to the bridge which were all a part of Phase 2, which we thought were going to be done next year. The grant allows us to get it done this year,” said Nelson.
Originally, the FTA hoped to have the bridge opening on July 1, and while the soft opening may be around that time, the grand opening will be done later in the year.
“We have had a few delays so we are looking to have a soft opening where it is physically open to traffic as soon as possible, but the grand opening, where we will have Bill Bennett, the Ministry of Highways, the Mayor and all the funders and working partners will be a little later on,” said Nelson.