Sometime between 2015 and 2016, the province will spend an estimated $10 million — perhaps more — to rehabilitate the First Street bridge.
The provincial government considers these renovations its main priority when it comes to Brandon bridges, even before the bottleneck that is the Daly Overpass.
This is, of course, the provincial government’s prerogative, and as the Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation department has told us in the past, the First Street bridge is deteriorating and needs to be addressed.
We have no problem with this — the sooner the bridge is repaired, the better. But we wonder if the powers that be would consider an idea, based upon some hidden city information that the Sun recently dug up.
Last Saturday, we reported a curious case of forgotten history — a bylaw that had been introduced by Brandon City Council in 1939 to rename a portion of First Street North after a man responsible for shaping a part of the city that we know today.
The city council of the day, headed by then-Mayor Frederick H. Young, decided to name the stretch of First Street North between the northerly tip of Dinsdale Park and the Braecrest Drive intersection “Baragar Drive.”
The idea for renaming this stretch of First Street North stemmed from the Brandon Horticultural Society and the Parks Board of the City of Brandon, as a means to memorialize the late Charles A. Baragar, M.D.
During his time as the medical superintendent of the Manitoba Hospital for Mental Diseases — now known as the North Hill campus of the Assiniboine Community College — Baragar was “instrumental in procuring the landscaping and development of First Street North,” according to the bylaw penned by city council.
Baragar was the superintendent for more than a decade, starting in 1920, and he oversaw many of the hospital’s health reforms and programs. During his time in Brandon, the hospital grew substantially, with expansions including a colony building and a female nursing staff dormitory.
But it seems that the will of council somehow went astray, as the land titles office has no record of such a change. And in June 1974, when a different generation of councillors passed a bylaw naming that same stretch of roadway “First Street North,” there was no mention or acknowledgement of Baragar Drive.
We understand that there is little to no appetite to resurrect the name Baragar Drive on that stretch of road. Changing the name of that section of road would cause more havoc to area homeowners — who would suddenly find themselves with a new mailing address — than it would be worth.
But we suggest the province and the city consider renaming the First Street bridge to “Baragar Bridge.”
Naming a bridge to honour our past history is not unprecedented in this city.
After considerable construction, the David Thompson Bridge on 18th Street reopened in September 2010. The bridge was originally named after the explorer David Thompson, who mapped the Brandon and Assiniboine area pre-1797. The twin two-lane spans over the Assiniboine River replaced a narrow, aging bridge that only allowed a single lane of traffic each way — which was also called the David Thompson Bridge.
As such, we were pleased that the city decided to keep the original name. It’s a nod to the history of the region and to an earlier generation who thought the name Thompson was worth remembering.
But to our knowledge, the First Street bridge does not have any other moniker of note.
Maybe it’s time to change that.