Suspension bridge near Campbell River could be a thriller

A new suspension bridge near Campbell River aiming to give visitors a thrill is scheduled to open by June.

The 80-metre-long pedestrian bridge in Elk Falls Provincial Park will be designed with a sag, said Lorrie Bewza, who is heading up the $650,000 project for the Rotary Club of Campbell River.

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Sagging helps provide the fun and fear factor. “I think when there are people on it, there will be a bit of a movement,” Bewza said.

It will be 60 or 65 metres — the exact height has not yet been finalized — above the water, providing a view of the tumbling 25 metres of Elk Falls. “It is just an amazing canyon,” Bewza said. A visit will be free.

The Elk Falls project will join new and planned pedestrian suspension bridges in Squamish and Kelowna designed to attract visitors and boost tourism. They are building on the popularity of the famous 137-metre-long Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, which hangs 70 metres above water.

Bewza had been hoping for a height of at least 71 metres to beat the Capilano, but it appears the terrain will not allow for that.

He estimates between 35,000 and 70,000 people will walk over the bridge annually, injecting $2.5 million to $5 million into the local economy.

Rickety suspension bridges that just happen to snap when the hero is half-way across have long been a staple of heart-stopping moments in action movies set in exotic locations.

Today’s suspension bridges are built using steel cables. The Elk Falls bridge will be anchored into bedrock, Bewza said. Extra side cables may be installed to stabilize the sway.

McElhanney Consulting Services has been hired to manage the project. B.C. Hydro is sharing its studies of the area, Bewza said.

The aim is to minimize impact on the park, he said. Archeological and environmental information will go to B.C. Parks. A request for proposals to build the bridge will likely be issued within four weeks, he said.

The bridge design is still to be finalized, but Bewza expects it will be similar to the Haslam Creek bridge near Nanaimo. Construction will begin in March or April 2014, he said. A viewing platform facing the falls is also in the plans.

Bridge planning is proceeding as B.C. Hydro develops its $1-billion John Hart replacement generating station that will see five years of construction begin in 2014. Hydro amenities include rerouting the popular Canyon View Trail, which runs along the Campbell River. The new Station View trail will allow users to watch the massive construction project.

Access to the suspension bridge will be via a new Hydro-built, 80-stall parking lot off Highway 28. The new parking area is linked to a trail and pedestrian crossing over Hydro pipelines and there is a new interpretive centre about the generating station.

The trail design to the bridge has still to be finalized, Bewza said.

Planning for the bridge started a few years ago when three or four members visited Elk Falls, he said. The Rotary Club of Campbell River runs an annual fundraising television campaign to raise money for community projects. The bridge project received $75,000 from the club, Hydro chipped in $150,000, a federal grant totalled $86,500, public donations amounted to $700 and club members donated about $14,000 worth of work and materials to the local Millennium Trail, Bewza said. The Island Coastal Economic Trust provided matching funds of $325,000.

Dave Petryk, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island, praised the project. “When you add something like a suspension bridge to a trail system, I think it gives you a really cool asset that’s a little bit unique and different and that’s the kind of thing we are looking for.”

Map of Elk Falls near Campbell River

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