If you travel through Whiteshell Provincial Park, along the Great Trail, you will find two picturesque bridges – one at Hanson’s Creek and the other at Cabin Lake. The story of these bridges may not quite be a fairy tale, but I wonder if there was bit of magic involved.
In 2016, Trails Manitoba posted an RFP for four steel hiking bridges in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, along The Great Trail. Evan Manning, Pier Solutions’ founder and president (and my husband), randomly came across the RFP in the first local newspaper we received after moving to Springfield. I remember Evan, standing at our counter, hovering over the newspaper “Jeana! Look at this!”
Evan and I spent one full day in June 2016 (the 5th, to be exact), hiking to each of the future bridge locations. I remember both of us were exhausted at the end of the day, and I would find out the next day that I had an extra little reason in my tummy to feel low in energy. We submitted our proposal for the four bridges, only to find out that our bid was unsuccessful. Trails Manitoba went on to award two of the four bridges to another company.
Then, around New Years of 2017, an RFP from the City of Winnipeg came out to replace the two existing fairy-tale like bridges in King’s Park. Their arch was unfortunately too steep for universal accessibility requirements. With both qualifications and price considered in the awarding process, we knew that our little company of three people had a slim chance. But why not take a shot?
There were 13 bids, and our reasonable price combined with our low overhead and respectable experience made the difference.
Evan and I walked with our precious little girl, now a few months old, over the old King’s Park bridges in spring of 2017 – Evan, with a tape measure, me with our girl.
“Evan, what could we do with these old bridges? Your idea to stretch one across our yard is fun, but it might look a bit awkward. I wonder what we could do with them. What if we did a porchulaca project?!”
Let me explain. Both of our mothers are gardeners, and both of them hate the porchulaca weed, which is apparently difficult to get rid of. A year or so before, Evan and I were walking in his parent’s garden, munching on various greens, when Evan’s mom pointed out the nutritional value of porchulaca – we all proceeded to fill our mouths with the stuff. Hmm, not bad.
Evan and I started thinking, what if we had a business where we were paid to weed porchulaca, and then sold the porchulaca to people who were interested in the nutritional benefits?
So, the idea of porchulaca bridges was born. Removing the King’s Park bridges was a part of our contract and now we just needed a buyer. Better than selling the bridges, we could donate them, and only charge for our labour. We did, after all, acquire the bridges at no cost.
At this point, Trails Manitoba had installed two of the four steel Whiteshell bridges. The Manitoba government adjusted their requirement for steel trail bridges in provincial parks, and would now allow wooden bridges because of the return on investment. The capital and maintenance cost of wooden trail bridges is often less than the capital costs of steel bridges.
In spring of 2017, we lifted out the two red King’s Park wooden bridges. Now the bridges were in need of a home. The two remaining Whiteshell bridge locations were at Hanson’s Creek and Cabin Lake, with 14 m and 16 m divides. Like magic, the King’s Park bridges were a perfect fit.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Trails Manitoba, Trans Canada Trails and Centennial Trail, the project funds and contract were put in place. After the foundations were constructed, the King’s Park bridges were trucked to the Whiteshell, helicoptered to site and assembled in place on the crossings of Hanson’s Creek (2019) and Cabin Lake (2020) - both helicopter days lined up with one of the coldest days in each respective year!
To see the Hanson's Creek bridge helicopter transport, check out our website. Stay tuned for the Cabin Lake full construction video, coming summer 2020!
You can also read this story in the Winnipeg Free Press.