Kensington snowmobile group wants damaged bridge repaired, reopened

The Kensington & Area Snowmobile Club wants the government to repair and reopen Gunn's Bridge on Route 240 outside Stanley Bridge, P.E.I. 

The bridge was severely damaged after post-tropical storm Dorian and the province said it needs to be replaced.

During the summer, the road is open to all vehicular traffic but, during the winter it's not maintained and is closed by the province. Snowmobiles use it as part of the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association's trail system. 

The bridge is located just off Trout River Road. It serves as a main access point for snowmobilers to get to the Rustico area, said Russell Jollimore, president of the Kensington & Area Snowmobile Association. 

"There's three restaurants, two fuel stations and a couple of coffee shops and it's a great destination for snowmobilers and families," said Jollimore. 

"That is the highest traffic travelled area on our system because of its destination points."

After Dorian, the government closed the bridge until the required work could be completed, erecting barricades to keep traffic off it. 

Tom Steepe/CBC

Jollimore said he heard from government that the bridge would be fixed in time for the snowmobiling season, but that didn't happen. 

Jollimore said that prompted some members of the club to make some repairs themselves.

"The club felt compelled to fix it because ... if it was left the way it was, we run the risk of a snowmobile getting jammed in between the approach and the actual bridge itself and there being an issue," he said. 

"So we took it upon ourselves to fix the upcoming approach." 

No provincial approval

That didn't sit well with the province. 

Stephen Yeo, chief engineer for the department of transportation, said the damage to the bridge was extensive. He said it needs to be completely replaced.

"We had an inspector look underneath the bridge and it's damaged to the point where it's unsafe," he said. "It's not sitting on the abutment like it should be. And there's a problem with the centre piers as well. So, it's not weight restricted, it's closed."

Yeo said the department needs to approve any work that's carried out on a provincial highway, and the snowmobiling club didn't get it. 

A spokesperson for the department of transportation said in an email that penalties for conducting unauthorized work on infrastructure are decided on a case by case basis and the government is not interested in pursuing any penalties in this case.

Submitted by Russell Jollimore

"I was concerned with the safety of who had done it, going out there and doing this type of work on a bridge that's not structurally sound and could fail," said Yeo. 

Yeo said the province has replaced the barriers and added more that are harder to move to keep people from using the bridge.

"That's how it stands right now, it's closed." 

Future plans

Yeo said the province plans to have a new bridge in place by the end of June. 

In the interim, he said the department is working to accommodate the snowmobilers. 

"We're trying to make some changes in there that will allow a single snowmobile to pass over some sort of temporary structure," he said. "And we're trying to make arrangements for the groomer that does work as well." 

Yeo said he expects to have an update on the status of those structures in the coming days. 

"I guess we'll be thankful with whatever we get for the season," said Jollimore. "I wish it would've been dealt with sooner, in a more timely manner."

More P.E.I. news