Open house a refresher before Beaver Boardwalk construction next month

Interest in an upcoming rehabilitation project at Maxwell Lake and the Beaver Boardwalk is strong, if the attendance at a public open house offered by the Town of Hinton on Monday evening is any indication.

Construction on the first phase of the multi-faceted project is set to begin in Hinton next month.

The Town of Hinton offered the open house as a refresher on the work needed, as the need for the work extends over the past several years.

“It's been quite delayed, and it's been fairly controversial too,” said Beth MacCallum of the Whisky-Jack Club, a local birding and nature appreciation group.

She explained that gravel ramps that were put in a few years ago were “dripping gravel through the wetland,” which required a Water Act approval. The town was forced to remove the gravel ramps.

This phase of the project will involve both the construction of ramps at Maxwell Lake bridge and building new boardwalk over the gravel trail sections of the Beaver Boardwalk, according to information provided by the Town of Hinton in an email.

“It's a gravel path, and historically they just keep dumping gravel to keep it from sinking into the wetland, but they won't be doing that anymore,” MacCallum said.

The bid posting found on the town’s website shows nearly a dozen facets to the project, including removal of damaged or sunken boardwalk as well as the bridge and stairs, plus the installation of piles, ramps, a viewing platform and replacing the boardwalk. Turbidity monitoring and fish capture and release, plus environmental access and protection measures, are listed as required.

MacCallum is concerned that the option to replace the bridge with a simple footbridge was never really considered. She also says that decisions and actions are taking far too long.

“We do need access north and south. I have no argument with that,” she said.

“You're going to put more infrastructure right in the wetland, and we're leaving that for future generations. You've got to do something about access. There's no question there. I think all the steps along the way, decisions were poorly made, and now we're going to have this monster thing right in the middle of the wetland.”

She added that ramps would make the visual blockage even more dramatic, calling the whole thing “an eyesore.”

Fellow club member Andrew Godsalve also expressed his dismay that the open house was not more open to suggestions from the public.

“I was initially expecting to have more tangible input on the outcome of the plan for the bridge structure with some ways to express my desired outcome for a plan for the structure,” he said.

“When I went there, it was pretty clear right off the bat that the plan was already in place. There was one plan, and there wasn't really much opportunity for the public to change it at all.”

Representatives from the town and consulting partner Associated Engineering were available during the open house to facilitate project-specific questions.

Tenders to the bid were due on Wednesday afternoon. Neither of the project leads were available for an interview before press time.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh