“Save our bridge” Over 300 people support Red Bridge

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The public rallied in support of the Red Covered Bridge during a public demonstration, June 30.

Allyson Beauregard



The public rallied in support of the Red Covered Bridge during a public demonstration, June 30.

Allyson Beauregard

MANSFIELD – Over 300 people attended a public demonstration, June 30, in support of the Felix Marchand Bridge which was closed last year by the Ministry of Transport over concerns it was unstable. Since then, minimal structural work has been done and the bridge remains closed with no stated plans for re-opening.
Traffic was reduced to one lane during the demonstration, held in front of the bridge, with the help of the Sûreté du Quebec. Several television and radio crews were on site to cover the event, which included speeches from Martin Bertrand, President of
the Pontiac Tourism Association, Pontiac MNA Andre Fortin, Pontiac MP Mathieu Ravignat, Mayor of Fort-Coulonge and Pontiac Warden Raymond Durocher, Mansfield
Mayor Kathy Belec,
and Jane Toller, a descendent of George Bryson
who currently owns Spruceholme Inn, Bryson’s Bistro du Bucheron, and the Pontiac Conference Centre in Fort-Coulonge.
“This bridge represents a lot of history and is important for the region; it is
highlighted as an important tourist destination in Tourisme Outaouais brochures. We are here to show our support, to demonstrate we are
unhappy, and to ask what
is happening with repairing our bridge,” said Bertrand before introducing the other speakers. “We want everyone to know the importance of this bridge to our community and as a tourist destination. We won’t wait ten years for it to be repaired,” he continued.
Toller recounted the
history of the bridge, from its construction and repairs to its importance to the log drive. “The bridge has been here since 1898,” she said.
“In 1962, it was closed and was
threatened with demolition, but three men started a committee called ‘Save the Bridge Association’; they got federal and
provincial money and raised funds to
re-open the bridge. During 1972’s high waters, the bridge was closed due to a log jam. In 1979, the same thing happened. Every time, champions came forward in the community (to re-open it).”
In an attempt to bring the bridge’s
continued closure to the attention of the provincial government, Toller, with the help of Fortin, created a petition that was
presented to the National Assembly. The petition was signed by over 2,000 people in three weeks.
Fortin stressed his ongoing support for the bridge’s re-opening and updated the crowd on the petition’s impact. “The
petition was well received. Petitions trigger a written answer, to be given to me in the Assembly by the appropriate Minister; this will be done when the Assembly resumes in September. There is now an action plan for the bridge. We have every intention to repair it in short order. It’s the
government’s responsibility, and we will do the necessary work in a timeline that respects the community and its needs,” he explained.
Ravignat stressed the bridge’s
importance as a link between two
communities and how its significance as a heritage symbol for the area should be
recognized and supported by federal
funding. “I will be bringing this up with
the Minister for Heritage. The federal government put money into this in the 1970s, so I don’t see any reason not to invest in it now,” he added, stating he wants to see the bridge re-opened in the 2016 fiscal year.
“The picture isn’t too pretty, right now,” said Belec, explaining the economic
damage caused by the bridge’s closure during tourist season. “It is very important that the bridge remains open for vehicles,” she added, in response to rumours it may only be reopened for cyclist and pedestrian use.
“This bridge is the future and we will save it,” concluded Durocher.