Last year’s spring flooding destroyed the historic suspension bridge in Souris. Town officials will unveil plans for a replacement at a meeting tonight.
It’s Manitoba’s most romanticized bridge — or at least it was.
Arching slightly in the middle and disappearing into lush greenery on each beginning and/or end — depending on which side you started from — the Souris Swinging Bridge used to connect a community divided by the waters of the Souris River.
"There is a sentimental attachment to having a swinging bridge joining the two sides of town," Mayor Darryl Jackson said.
Last spring, the water, that normally runs under the 177-metre bridge, ran up to, over and then through the bridge, decimating the 34-year-old structure. The destruction the raging river left in its wake destroyed the bridge, but it’s a story Souris residents have seen and heard before.
Since the bridge was first erected in 1904, floods have forced repairs, and in 1976, flood waters completely carried away the bridge. But in each case the bridge has been made stronger and better than before.
Tonight, during an informational meeting in the Kirkup Lounge beginning at 6:30 p.m., Souris residents will get a look at the future of the Swinging Bridge.
"It definitely still has the hanging look of a swinging bridge," Jackson said.
The look and feel of the bridge were important aspects of consideration for town council in narrowing down potential bridge structures after Stantec Consulting provided nine different potential designs.
"Council immediately rejected seven of the options because there was no swing to the bridge," Jackson said.
Drill testing the banks of the river narrowed the field further, leaving only one suitable design. Anchored from street level, the new bridge will have a little different look to it, but Jackson said it should also provide some added measures of security against future flooding.
"It will definitely be higher off the water and we shouldn’t have any issues with ice breakup in the spring or floating trees hitting it — hundreds of which came down the river last year," Jackson said.
While not having a pedestrian bridge has been an inconvenience at times for residents, the impact felt by the business community has been evident, although tough to quantify.
"We believe not having the bridge has been a huge detriment to our tourism industry," Jackson said. "It is a big tourist attraction for our town and throughout southwestern Manitoba and there is a lot of spinoff to restaurants, gas stations and bed and breakfasts in the area because of it."
The new bridge, however, won’t be without its perks, allowing Souris to once again lay claim to the longest swinging bridge in Canada, after a bridge measuring 182 metres was built over Eagle Canyon near Thunder Bay, Ont., a few years ago.
"The new one will be 184 metres, so we’re just going to beat them and reclaim the title," Jackson said. "That’s just a fun thing, but it’s nice to have bragging rights again, knowing that someone at some point is going to build a longer one."
No concrete estimates for the cost to replace the bridge have been issued, and Jackson expects that to be cleared up at the meeting.
"We’re under the understanding that the DFA (Disaster Financial Assistance) program will be paying for it and that it won’t be a Town of Souris cost," said Jackson, although he added both levels of government have been reluctant to put that in writing.
Jackson expects the construction to be completed sometime next summer.
"It’s going to be a win-win all the way around," Jackson added.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 27, 2012