The Regional District of Nanaimo dropped its original plan to upgrade the Little Qualicum River Regional Park Bridge, opting to build a new one instead.
The cost to upgrade the old bridge, which is in bad shape and unsafe for use, has increased since it was first approved in 2015 from $125,000 to $432,389. Staff indicated it could increase even more if other unknowns are discovered during construction. A new bridge, staff estimated, would cost between $600,000 and $700,000.
Given the cost to upgrade the bridge and the unknown age of the existing components, Mark Dobbs, superintendent of Parks Operations and Capital Projects, stated in his report to the board it would be prudent to build a new bridge instead that would last 75 years. The financial implications, he pointed out, do not support proceeding with upgrades to the structure of the bridge.
The RDN recently put out a request for proposals from June to July to upgrade the bridge and three tenders were received with the lowest bid of $333,656 being submitted by Heavy Metal Ltd.
But staff recommended the board cancel the tender and not award the contract. The board agreed and also endorsed the removal of the existing bridge due to safety concerns.
When the RDN took ownership of the Little Qualicum River property, the bridge was used for gravel extraction by Ozero Sand and Gravel through affiliation with Wicklow West Holdings.
Since sustaining damage in 2014, the bridge was closed to the public. Concrete no-post barriers weighing 2,000 kilograms were placed at each end of the bridge but they were repeatedly vandalized and removed. The gates were constantly breached to allow vehicles to access the property.
All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) users drive through this site as an alternative river crossing location and that was a concern. Dobbs indicated that aside from the risk this posed to ATV users and pedestrians, it is also causing significant damage and siltation to sensitive salmon habitat that spawn and nest in the area.
The bridge is an important link to the local community for access to the river and to neighbouring crown lands.
Staff said they feel a new bridge will benefit the community and the region.
The board agreed that the design and construction of the new bridge be considered for inclusion in the 5-year-Regional Parks Capital Plan.