Two cranes hoist a new 120-foot-long bridge into place near Elk Falls. The bridge spans BC Hydro’s woodstave pipelines and is part of the project to replace the generating station.

Bridging efforts in Elk Falls Provincial Park

New BC Hydro-funded bridge just opened and that will lead to the building of a suspension bridge by the Campbell River Rotary Club

One bridge will lead to another.

That’s the plan at Elk Falls Provincial Park where a new BC Hydro-funded bridge just opened and that will lead to the building of a suspension bridge by the Campbell River Rotary Club.

“Hydro does listen. They pulled all the people together and collaborated over the last five to six year,” said city councillor Andy Adams.

Adams and Coun. Ron Kerr joined members of the BC Hydro community liaison committee, BC Parks and contractors last Wednesday for a first walk  across the 120-foot bridge that spans the woodstave pipelines.

But first some background:

Starting next year, BC Hydro will begin a nearly $1 billion project to replace the woodstave pipelines – that transfer water from John Hart Lake to the generating station – with a 2.1-kilometre tunnel that will run down General Hill to a brand new generating station.

That’s required some rerouting of two popular hiking trails, the Canyon View and the one leading to the falls itself.

In September, the Station View bypass trail opened on the Canyon View. It takes hikers up and around the generating station construction site, and will be open for the five-year project period.

Also this fall, BC Hydro built a new and improved parking lot for Elk Falls sightseers, and that sits beside a new interpretive centre. The parking lot replaces the current parking lot which will no longer be accessible when Brewster Lake closes by John Hart Dam. And the centre features the history of power generation and includes current project updates.

On Tuesday, another key component to the new Elk Falls route officially opened. A short trail leads from the parking area to the new bridge which spans the three pipelines, and that connects with the current trail system.

As well, BC Hydro and Parks have decided to permanently keep the new parking area because of the new suspension bridge.

“This parking area was key for us in getting approval for the suspension bridge,” said Rotarian Lorrie Bewza, chair of the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge Project.

The 90-metre bridge is expected to open in June 2014.

It will hang 60 metres above the canyon floor and provide spectacular views of the 25-metre falls.

“This project will showcase one of Campbell River’s most spectacular natural wonders,” Bewza said during a previous interview.

The bridge spanning the pipelines was built in Ontario for Caliber Bridge and Design Ltd. of Campbell River.

“We wanted three B.C. firms to bid on the bridge, but they were all too busy so we had to go elsewhere. I guess that means the economy is doing well,” said Mark McCarthy, a Caliber engineer.

There were several challenges in getting the bridge in place. First and foremost was to shore up both sides so that a potential disaster wouldn’t allow the bridge to damage the pipelines. There were also considerations given to fibre optics, power lines, roads and more.

Finally, two cranes were brought in to lower the bridge into place.

“The bridge went were it was supposed to go!” said BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson, who added that the trail leading to the new bridge is wheelchair accessible with no more than a five per cent grade.