Province’s Money Can Be Used To Restore Trestle

The Cowichan Valley Regional District may have moved a step closer to restoring the Kinsol Trestle rather than dismantling it and building a new one. At a special board meeting Thursday, directors were presented with information from both restoration and rebuilding representatives.

Gordon Macdonald, from Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd., talked about the trestle as an intriguing structure that's worth restoring.

Most directors seemed impressed by his research.

They asked staff to provide information regarding spending $160,000 for a peer review recommended by Macdonald.

Alan Callander, from the Ministry of Transportation, brought up the $1.5 million they agreed to pay for the dismantling and removal of the trestle, which has become a significant liability due to possible environmental damage and the threat to public safety.

The CVRD has also received a grant of $1.6 million from the Ministry of Community Services' Local Motion Program on the understanding that it will be used to assist in the construction of a replacement trestle suitable for pedestrians and cyclists.

There are two pots of money, Callander said. The $1.6 million is secure for this project. Its objective is to get people out and active, no matter what the structure is. The $1.5 million could be used to either replace or restore the trestle.

MoT will not, however, commit the $1.5 million unless there's a legal agreement between them and the CVRD that the work on the existing trestle be completed as a CVRD-mandated project, that the project be completed in a timely fashion and that the CVRD be fully responsible for all liability associated with the trestle and ongoing maintenance.

The longer it stands, the larger the liability, Callander said. The MoT wants to remove liability either way.

If we're in for a penny, we better make sure we're in for a pound, said Loren Duncan, director for Cowichan Station, Sahtlam, Glenora. Are we prepared to own it? If we get funding for the $160,000 peer review, we can't just pass it off afterwards to someone else.

Town of Lake Cowichan Mayor Jack Peake said CVRD would be transferring liability from the province's insurer to ours.

That might be one downside to restoration, he said.

The upside to restoring the trestle, said Macdonald, will be saving a significant landmark nationally, if not internationally known.

This is a monster, not just because of its size, but because its such a big part of the heritage.

The trestle was built in 1911, designed for the CN Railway. With a length of 614 feet, the Kinsol is the longest trestle in B.C. Being 145 feet high, it is possible that it's the highest wooden trestle in the world.

The bridge was built extremely overdesigned, said Reid Costley, design engineer for Cascade Engineering Group. It could be reduced by 50 per cent, and would still work.

Macdonald pulled together cronies from the restoration game to compile his research.

We feel it can be done for $4 million, he said.

He estimates it will cost $150,000 a year for maintenance.

Saltair director Mel Dorey said he doesn't want restoration because the trestle is a river of decay. We're just going to keep on throwing more and more money every year into it. It's going to be a nightmare.

Macdonald said it's far easier to fundraise around an in peril treasure, rather than it is for a hole in the ground. Imagine the potential PR, he said.

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, who favours restoration, wondered what restorers would do with the timber that can't be saved.

Our goal is to restore as much timber as we can, Macdonald said. There's some salvage value.

James Klett, of Klett Consulting Services Ltd., presented the other side, arguing that the trestle will eventually be a new structure anyway, upon the amount of timber to be replaced.

You work and work and there's no end to it.

He compared the Kinsol to the Holt Creek Trestle his company restored in 2004.

The estimated cost to restore Holt Creek Trestle was $56,000. The final cost ended up being $450,000.

There was one thing after another that had to be replaced and they got deeper and deeper, Klett said.

The rebuilt structure should last 40-50 years, with little maintenance, he said. Just some tightening of bolts and that's all you would have to do.

The restored trestle might have a life span of another 30-40 years. He suggested using pine timbers.

Mike Walker, director for Mill Bay- Malahat, asked if the CVRD has the funds to kick off the peer review process.

Parks Manager Brian Farquhar said money is available from a regional parks fund.

North Cowichan alternative director Ruth Hartmann asked why CVRD couldn't just make a decision that evening: Why go back?

Some people are saying that the board's doodling away while the Kinsol rots, said Cowichan Lake South, Skutz Falls director Joe Allan.

I agree with director Hartmann in that we have to go forward, said Cowichan Bay alternative director Donna Einarsson. We have to spend the money to know if it's feasible.

View the Kinsol Trestle Project