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Troubled bridge over water in Fenelon Falls

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This Just In: A government-appointed official reported that there was “a great deal of dissatisfaction being expressed at Fenelon Falls” over progress on the bridge.

That may sound current, but it’s actually a report from 1887. And that’s not a typo: 18-87. It seems that figuring the best way (and the number of ways) over the Fenelon River is just part of the Fenelon DNA, perhaps as integral to a Fenelonite as as our perpetual rivalry with Bobcaygeon.

Contributing Editor Trevor Hutchinson.

The first bridge in Fenelon was constructed in 1842 and replaced by a second in 1867. That was replaced again in 1882 when the Toronto Iron Bridge Company built a wood-floored steel structure for $4,931.85. The dissatisfaction in 1887 was over the swing-bridge, now part of the Rail Trail. Construction of that languished until 1894 as local authorities, the railway company and the federal government argued over the financial arrangement. So while the rest of the area and country was in full-on expansion and growth mode, Fenelon stalled, pending bridge infrastructure issues.

Legend has it that at one point in Leslie Frost’s premiership, Fenelon was offered full funding for a second bridge over the river as part of a proposed bypass. The village, spurred on by opposition of some downtown merchants who feared a bypass would be bad for business, declined. Bobcaygeon however would approve their proposed bypass. The Bobcaygeon bypass not only didn’t kill their village, it helped it to grow to almost twice the size of Fenelon.

Jump ahead another 30 years and in Fenelon Falls we are once again talking about bridges. A corridor study was started in 2015 which confirmed, among other things, that summer traffic in Fenelon sucks is just horrible. And ironically, while a previous generation of Fenelon merchants fought a second crossing, the provincial portion of this corridor study funding came from the ‘Business Retention and Expansion Project.” The existing crossing, according to the Transportation Master Plan, will exceed 100 per cent capacity in 2027.

City Council just approved an environmental study of a proposed second crossing, meaning the village is one step closer. But it’s not just a river that has to be crossed: environmental, planning and funding hurdles will also have to be traversed and all of this will take time. But sometimes taking the time to do it right is worth it. That 1882 Fenelon bridge was hastily constructed 17 inches below the previous one and had to be subsequently raised.

Here’s hoping we get it right this time.

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A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Glenarm, Kawartha Lakes.

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