Island Lake Bridges

Last Thursday evening, April 3, we went to Farmhouse Pottery on Hockley Valley Road.  Al Pace has organized Thursday night speakers for the next three weeks.  Close to 30 people were there to hear Wayne White and Bob Shirley talk about bridges on Island Lake.  They will be followed by Laurie McGaw this week.  She’s a renowned portrait artist, who will share stories about recent projects; Al Pace himself who talks about the wilderness canoe trips as inspiration for his work; and Tim Falconer to talk about his latest project, a book about singing badly, aptly named “Bad Singer”.

in the distance, bridge across Island Lake

Wayne and Bob have obviously told the Island Lake story before.  They handed off the story back and forth, describing the process of building three spans of bridges – some 300 meters in all.  It was a daunting task.  First they built 75 cribs out of square hemlock timbers (hemlock doesn’t float), about five feet by six by 10 (1.5 meters by 1.8 by 3 meters high).  They flooded the ice, pumping water from the lake onto the surface to make an extra  thick layer along the path the bridge would take.  The winter of 2013 wasn’t particularly cold so the natural ice wasn’t thick enough to support the weight of wood and stone as they hauled the materials into position.  Then they cut holes in the ice about a foot larger on each side than the cribs, set them into the holes, levelled them, filled and finally surrounded them with stone.  According to Bob Shirley, each crib has about a tri-axel load (more than 20 tons of rocks) in and around it.  They brought the stone out onto the ice in motorized wheelbarrows that would hold two or three bucket loads from the small back hoe they had on site.

A host of hard-working volunteers from Friends of Island Lake (FOIL) carried out much of the work building, placing and filling the cribs, with guidance, equipment and labour from Sunshine Landscaping.  The company took over the construction of the deck and rails.  Not only does the wooden path cross the water, it meanders over two islands as well… and the finished project is breathtaking.

Looking down the longest section of bridge over Island Lake

Bob’s Bridge over the water.  The lookout you see about half-way across also serves as an ice breaker to protect the bridge from shifting ice.


Tony on wooden bridge across island

Bob’s Bridge crosses two small islands as well as the water.

The bridge opened officially in a ceremony last June and the bridges were named Bob’s Bridges, to honour Bob Shirley’s 30 years of contribution to conservation in the area.  He was a member of the Credit Valley Conservation Board of Directors from 1977 to 2008, of the CVC Foundation from 2003 and FOIL from 2005.  According to the Credit Valley Conservation Web site, Bob has been “a tireless fundraiser, a passionate trails advocate and the heart and soul  of the Island Lake Community Trails Campaign”.

What’s Next?

Bob’s Bridges and the connecting trail join the north and south portions of the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail and the next project is closing the loop.  Wayne and Bob showed the projected path of the loop and more bridges running close to highway 10.  Here, too, the bridge will cross a couple of very small islands.  These bridges will not be on cribs, however; the lake bottom is too soft to support them.  They’ve been out on the water testing metal supports that have something that looks like a large auger bit on one end.  They screw into the soft lake bottom and will carry the weight of the bridge.

Fundraising is continuing for the final link.  In fact, the $10 per person fee Al Pace charges to attend his presentations all goes to FOIL.  With the support of the public, many sponsors and grants from the provincial and federal governments that are in the works there will be an 11 kilometre trail around – and over – Island Lake.

Next… a floating stage in the bay where the swimming beach was (the beach is being moved)… then…

We’ll have to see.

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