A bridge on Collingwood’s Hens and Chickens trail connecting the island to the mainland has washed away.
A team of five volunteers added 24 feet and raised the boardwalk connecting Hens and Chickens Island to the trail last August. The trail, which starts at the end of Balsam Street, winds along Collingwood’s coastline, and can flood in times of high water levels.
This winter the older part of the bridge was carried away.
Murray Knowles, a member of the Collingwood Trails Advisory Committee, was before the Corporate and Community Services Committee earlier this month to let them know about the disappeared bridge and express his and the trail volunteers’ concerns about aging trails infrastructure and the impact of rising water levels on the shoreline trails.
Knowles said with the trails current budget, allocated by the town, it would take between two to three years to build a replacement bridge. Meanwhile, there will be no access to the trail on Hens and Chickens Island.
According to Dean Collver, director of parks, recreation, and culture for the town, the annual capital budget for Collingwood’s trails is $100,000, and that’s based on development charge funding. Capital funds would typically be used to build new trails or infrastructure.
The annual operating budget for 2018 was $82,525, and it was increased to $129,856 for 2019.
Knowles said there are several factors drawing on that maintenance budget, including aging trails approaching 15 years old that need to be resurfaced and widened. A new bridge at Hens and Chickens island would take a significant amount of the budget for two-to-three years, according to Knowles.
However, there may be a way to get a new bridge this year.
Collver also presented at the same committee meeting, and subsequent council meeting, to let council know about two sources of funds for trail repairs and an extension.
In May, 2018, a 300-foot section of the Harbourview Boardwalk burned. Collingwood Fire Department said the fire likely started as a result of a nearby illegal campfire that ignited the grass and spread to the boardwalk.
Discussions with the town’s insurance company did commence, but it wasn’t clear whether the boardwalk replacement would be covered, so staff and council put aside $150,000 in the 2019 budget for the work.
Collver announced the town’s insurer approved coverage and will fund the total cost of a replacement boardwalk.
Additionally, an anonymous donor came forward with an offer of $100,000 to be put toward a boardwalk extension into the western harbour including a viewing platform in the Western Fens - an initiative included in the Waterfront Master Plan.
The donation was made with the condition the money be used for the extension and viewing platform.
Collver told council it’s possible with the insurance money, the $150,000 allocated for the boardwalk trail, and the $100,000 anonymous donation, the town could replace the burned boardwalk, build the extension, and replace the missing bridge at Hens and Chickens Island.
Instead of approving the full action entirely, council directed Collver to get estimates and return to council with a more detailed cost analysis of the work. Council will then make a decision on the extension of the boardwalk and the replacement of Hens and Chickens bridge. The island will remain inaccessible in the meantime.
For those missing the Hens and Chickens Island trail, the trails committee volunteers have recently completed work to repair and widen the River Trail on the Pretty River. The railing has yet to be installed, but the trail has reopened.
River Trail is located at Hume and Raglan Streets.