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
"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
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
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
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."
more about the
Alberta Central Railway and
ACR Linear Park
Mintlaw Bridge essential to region's railroad
(Red Deer Express March 2010)