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ACR / CPR Mintlaw Bridge

Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
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Forth Junction
Heritage Society

Opposition comes forward to
Mintlaw Bridge preservation

reprinted from Mountain View Gazette (Johnnie Bachusky) May 17, 2011

Red Deer County has hired a consultant to study the possible future uses for the historically significant Mintlaw trestle bridge -- but one of the municipality's most famous citizens is dead set against making the ancient structure a promoted public attraction for a new park area.

"I'm still opposed to making it a public park. It's not set up to be a recreation park," said Jack Donald, whose home is literally situated in the shadow of the bridge, which was for many years unused and forgotten.

"The other thing is that the bridge is inherently dangerous," added Donald, founder of Parkland Income Trust, and now president and chief executive officer of Parkland Properties Ltd. "Somebody is going to get hurt or even killed."

Last month, the county hired RC Strategies, an Edmonton consultant company, to gather stakeholder and landowner input on the bridge's long-term preservation, its possible future uses and whether there should be public access from both its east and west entry points.

The study will cost the county $50,000 and will be finished by the end of the year.

Jo-Ann Symington, the county's community services manager, said the process will include discussions with all interest groups, including historical societies, trail groups and property owners in the area, including the Donald family.

"This is an opportunity for the public to comment. They (historical and trail societies) view the bridge as an important historical investment, and now that we have acquired it we want to find out its best future use. As we move through this process that will be determined," said Symington.

In 2009 the county purchased the bridge for $1. Built in 1912, the structure, located seven kilometres southwest of Red Deer, was originally owned by the Alberta Central Railway, and later, the Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. With a span of 633 metres across the Red Deer River and towering 33 metres above the waterway below, the railway bridge is the second longest of its kind in Alberta, after the one in Lethbridge. Considered one of Central Alberta's few remaining relics to the Age of Steam, the last train to cross the bridge was in 1981.

Two months ago the county spent $122,800 to prop up the west end of the bridge, which was sagging under the crushing weight of steel girders from above and the ongoing deterioration of decades-old timber supports. It is estimated that a further $2 million of work still needs to be done on the bridge to make it user-friendly for the public. Many years ago several metres at both ends of the bridge were removed to ensure visitor safety, particularly for the many young people who frequent the site.

For now, however, the county wants to find out how the antique structure can fit in with the many ideas that have recently come to public attention.

There have been suggestions the bridge could be an integral part of a trail system between the City of Red Deer and Sylvan Lake for hikers, walkers and cyclists.

The structure is also considered an important component for the ambitions of the Forth Junction Heritage Society, a group dedicated to preserving and promoting the region's transportation history and to making Central Alberta a world-class heritage destination.

"The bridge definitely is a vital piece of heritage. It and the cement pillar on Taylor Drive (in Red Deer) are the only things left from the Alberta Central Railway," said Paul Pettypiece, the society's president. "In fact many people don't even know where the bridge is."

Pettypiece said the concerns of landowners in the area of the bridge will have to be addressed before any action plan on future use is implemented.

Meanwhile, Donald wonders why the county has taken on such a large project that could come at great expense to ratepayers when a significant benefit will be for citizens of the City of Red Deer, which has not committed any resources or funds to any plans and processes to have the bridge preserved.

"Many people don't seem to understand the implications of this," said Donald, noting the bridge has a serious rust problem and is in dire need of sandblasting and new paint. "The county has no budget in place for things like fencing, or for providing all the things people need, like toilets and garbage cans and telephones. You have to look after these things.

"I don't think proper preparations have been made."

News articles related to ACR/CPR Mintlaw bridge:
       Commentary: Preservation Opportunity Not to be Lost
(Innisfail Province & Red Deer Advocate June 2015)
       News article: Red Deer County seeks partners to afford bridge access
(Mountain View Gazette Apr.2012)
       News article: County council looks at bridge as tourist attraction
(Red Deer Advocate April 2012)
       News article: Plans for Mintlaw Bridge waiting on public feedback
(Mountain View Gazette Feb.2012)
       News article: Reinforcing our history
(Red Deer Advocate Mar.2011)
       News article: Repairs planned for crumbling CPR bridge
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
       News article: RD County antes up for Mintlaw Bridge repairs
(Mountain View Gazette Nov.2010)
       News article: Bridging gap between history and disrepair
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       News article: County buys bridge for a buck
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2009)
       News article: County buys historic railway bridge
(Red Deer Express Dec.2009)

       News article: Historic significance of concrete obelisk preserved in mural (Red Deer Advocate Oct.2008)

Alberta Central Railway (CPR) - Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House
ACR/CPR Mintlaw Steel Trestle
Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
Alberta's Largest Railway Bridges
Largest Railway Bridges of Western Canada

Rails to Trails
Forth/Tuttle-Mintlaw-Sylvan Lake Linear Park Proposal

Michael Dawe articles related to Alberta Central Railway / CPR ACR branch heritage
A look back at the Alberta Central Railway (Red Deer Express Sept.2014)
       Laurier's 1910 visit huge event for city (Red Deer Express August 2010)
       Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad heritage (Red Deer Express March 2010)
       Sir Wilfrid Laurier visited Red Deer (Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
       The origins of Alberta Central Rail pillar (Red Deer Express April 2008)
       Alberta Central Railway helped open region (Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
       John T. Moore (Red Deer Express Feb.2003)


 News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
World-class destination centre still in the works 11/13       Praise today's big dream 01/12       Forth Junction targets county 12/11 
Forth Junction pulling toward a new station
12/11        A volunteer on the right track 12/10        Tourism board supports rail project 10/10
Forth Junction rail project seeking charitable status
10/10        Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling 07/10        Railway heritage 06/10
New idea for Riverlands worth an Olympic cheer 02/10       Happy to hear more talk on large-scale attractions 02/10
One-time opportunity 02/10       Tourism proposal facing obstacles 02/10       World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands 02/10

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