Nanaimo city council gave the nod to build the kind of bridge that will be able to handle the needs of park-goers at Bowen Park in the future.
Bill Sims, city general manager of engineering and public works, presented council with options for replacing the Lenhart Bridge at a governance and priorities meeting Monday, May 10.
The existing wooden-deck bridge, located in the west end of the park, provides the crossing for the trail leading to Riverside Drive at the foot of Lenhart Avenue, but is considered too narrow to accommodate bicycles and wheelchairs. According to a city staff report, the existing chain link fence panels are also insufficient for combined pedestrian and cyclist use, lack handrails and are also not the required height for cyclists.
Staff recommended replacing the bridge instead of trying to widen the existing structure.
“The existing bridge is insufficient for cyclists – it’s only 1.4 metres wide – it’s barely wide enough for pedestrians, although it has functioned that way since the 1960s,” Sims said. “Originally we’d hoped to simply widen the deck, but the existing footings wouldn’t support that.”
Sims said the bridge is important to the city’s transportation master plan and added that the city is focused on commuter corridors leading to downtown Nanaimo.
“The Lenhart Bridge would provide a nice connection for cyclists to the hospital and Townsite area,” Sims said.
To meet the expected increased use by commuters, a replacement bridge needs to have a four-metre wide deck, guardrails and a well-wearing surface for cyclists. The added width, the report noted, would give a safer, socially distanced cross-section for users and reduced approach grades would support accessibility.
Bowen Park trailway upgrades to lighting will also improve safety for users.
City staff recommended that council direct staff to include $237,000 for the Lenhart Bridge replacement project next year as part of the draft 2022-2026 financial plan, but Coun. Don Bonner asked why the bridge couldn’t be replaced this year while the infrastructure and trail upgrades are being carried out in Bowen Park.
Sims explained the hope was to have the bridge replaced this year, but it was discovered the existing structure and footing must be replaced and the city has to obtain environmental approvals to work in the Millstone River riparian area and there isn’t enough time to get approvals and design and fabricate the structure before fish start running in the river in late summer.
“We can package it up and get it out this fall for construction in the summer of next year,” Sims said.
Council voted unanimously to include the money in 2022 to replace the Lenhart Bridge with a new structure that meets active transportation standards.
Another bridge in Bowen Park downstream from the Lenhart Bridge, damaged by arson in 2019, will be replaced this year. The Millstone pedestrian bridge, built by the Nanaimo Lions Club, crosses the Millstone River to connect park entrance trail at Millstone Avenue and Bradley Street. Temporary repairs were made to make the bridge safe following the fire and it has remained in use. Art Groot, city director of facility and parks operations, said in an e-mail the budget for that replacement bridge is $213,500 and work to replace it is expected to start this fall.