Buttermilk Falls bridge closed for safety
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | July 13, 2017
An old pedestrian bridge by Buttermilk Falls was recently closed after being deemed “unsafe for use,” according to Parks Canada. An engineering report also concluded it’s beyond repair and will need to be removed.
Darryl Whitehead, external relations manager, announced the news in a press release June 28, two days before the area was fenced off and signage posted.
The bridge, which shares the substructure of the dam, likely dates back to the 1930s, he said.
“It’s old and it’s close enough to the dam that it’s just simply the responsible thing to do to have it inspected,” Whitehead told The Highlander.
It’s located next to the Parks Canadaowned Halls Lake dam. But until this week, its ownership was a mystery. “While research is ongoing, it appears as though the bridge belongs to the MTO and has never been transferred,” said Whitehead on Monday.
Parks Canada manages the TSW, which is comprised of 386 km of interconnected rivers, lakes, locks and canals. It conducts a detailed visual inspection of all its bridges every five years as well as annual inspections, which include site visits, dam adjustments and taking note of significant changes.
This pedestrian bridge is a remnant of the old highway system that used to run through the area, explained Whitehead.
Similar bridges exist at Canning Lake dam and 12 Mile Lake dam. The dam itself is being used as a temporary crossing. Steps and handrails have been installed to make it as userfriendly as possible. It will be “subject to the operational requirements of the dam and will not be available when the dam is at its winter setting,” said Whitehead.
Parks Canada informed the Township of Algonquin Highlands, the Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association, and businesses in the area about the closure.
Dale and John Rider, owners of Buttermilk Falls Resort, are concerned about an increase in visitors blocking guests and the fire department with their vehicles.
“It’s going to be nothing short of a nightmare for us,” said Dale.
Directly off Highway 35, a road passes in front of their home and office that leads to the resort. People already park on this road and she anticipates it will only get worse now that the bridge is off limits and they want a good view of the falls.
The road is the only access to the resort and the fire department uses it to draw water from Halls Lake.
Visitors are supposed to park in a public lot that is located next to the dam, on the opposite side of the falls. This is where the temporary crossing is.
Township Reeve Carol Moffatt agrees with the decision because public safety is paramount. She hasn’t received much feedback from the public at this time.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen long-term,” said Moffatt, adding she has asked Parks Canada to keep her abreast of any developments.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.