WEST MONTROSE– When West Montrose resident received word that the West Montrose covered bridge was closed to traffic due to a cracked structural beam, the first thing that came to their minds was “They broke our bridge” — say those who belong to the BridgeKeepers, the town’s residents’ association.
According to a press release from Waterloo Region, it’s suspected the bridge may have been damaged by an overweight vehicle. Doug Cereson, co-chair of BridgeKeepers, indicated they organization had planned a community barbecue for this Sunday (Sept. 30).
“Now it just makes sense to combine this into a neighbourhood event and a reminder that the bridge needs ongoing care and respect,” Cereson said.
Although the bridge is owned by the region, local residents regard it as their own. They take care of it, blowing down dust and cobwebs, sweeping debris off the floor, washing the walls, and painting over graffiti. This past June, about 30 volunteers helped paint the interior walls through a partnership with the region.
“The bridge is the centerpiece of this iconic landscape,” said Cerson, “and the damage to the bridge is a reminder to everyone of just how vulnerable the bridge and, in fact, the whole area, are to the pressures of modern-day lifestyles and development pressures. It would take a few minutes for a heavy vehicle to use the highway bridge and go around, but there are people who don’t want to give up that few minutes.”
Earlier this year, the lands around West Montrose were designated as a provincial Cultural Heritage Landscape to reflect the cultural heritage value of the whole area. Cerson says BridgeKeepers hopes to work with the region to consider and implement ways to better protect the bridge.
“This could have been a lot worse, and we need to act now to ensure something worse doesn’t happen in the future,” he said.
Residents and supporters of the covered bridge are invited to Sunday’s event at the bridge from 1-4 p.m. The event includes camaraderie, food and music.
More information about the BridgeKeepers and their efforts “to preserve the covered bridge experience” visit www.bridgekeepers.ca.