Pedestrians, cyclists, and recreationists, all of whom are part of the Save Middlebrook Place Bridge Community Action Group, took their pleas to rehabilitate the Middlebrook Place Bridge to the Township of Centre Wellington council meeting on Monday.
“We ask that the bridge is not removed and instead rehabilitated into a pedestrian bridge for active transportation and recreation use,” said group member Stephanie Lines-Toohill.
“This bridge has significant historic, aesthetic, and recreational value as it is situated in an ideal location for many purposes that benefit the community.”
Public outcry began when massive steel barricades were placed on the bridge in April 2021, with only two weeks' notice placed at the bridge for public input.
Middlebrook Place Bridge, is located on Township Road 60 just off Middlebrook Road, and is co-owned by the Township of Centre Wellington and the Township of Woolwich, as it lies on the border between the two.
The bridge’s structure has been worn down as time has passed on, as such an environment assessment was conducted and a final report was passed onto council on Jan. 27, 2020, endorsing the removal of the bridge without replacement.
In this report, active transportation such as walking, biking, jogging and running was ignored and left out of the study. It was stated that “analysis of data showed that the Middlebrook Place Bridges likely only serve the immediate local area residents."
However, Guelph Trail User Groups Coalition, which consists of nine cycling, hiking and running clubs with over 2,000 members, and the G2G – Guelph Trail Way group argues that dozens of people, who are non-local recreationists and commuters, cross the bridge, primarily through cycling on a weekly basis.
“It is by far the safest, and definitely the most scenic and historic, way to cross the Grand for a very long way, in both directions,” said another group member, Mark Walker.
Lines-Toohill explains the economic benefits of retaining the bridge, noting that the return of investments on cycling infrastructure is very high, which particularly comes from tourists who come to Centre Wellington and Woolwich; and a significant number of cyclists are retirees with fixed pension, which makes this form of transportation recession-proof.
Coun. Ian McRae was hesitant, especially with the precarious structure of the bridge.
“The bridge as it stands is not safe for use, just for pedestrians and cyclists-use would require significant capital investment in repairs to make it safe, once again. That option was evaluated through the EA process,” said Colin Baker, managing director of Infrastructure Services.
Council has already made a decision on the bridge, but any changes on that decision has to go through a motion for reconsideration. The motion requires two thirds majority of the vote from council in order to reconsider. Both councils from each township must vote yes for reconsideration.
Councillors decided to discuss the reconsideration at a later meeting in November.