Thirty-eight people attended the first session of New Horizons which was held on Thursday, January 9th at 10 a.m. at the Maryhill Heritage Park Community Centre. Guest speaker was Tony Dowling who is co-chair of “The Bridge Keepers” and spoke on the West Montrose Bridge.
The West Montrose Bridge is the only “Historical covered bridge” in Ontario although there are 2 or 3 covered bridges in Ontario non have the designation as being Historical. Lloyd Hartwick was the last bridge keeper and his job was to light the lanterns and to clean them and make sure they had kerosene. Now they are all electric.
Years ago when school buses crossed over the bridge the students would get off the bus and walk across to the other side. Now the buses are re-routed so they don’t have to go over the bridge. It is still used by pedestrians, buggy traffic and vehicles weighing less than three tonnes.
The bridge was built in 1881 by the Bear brothers who were previously barn builders. Built of oak and white pine with a total cost to the Township of Woolwich for $3,107.50. It is 30 feet long and its footings are stone. The cedar shake roof has been replaced as well as the inside being painted. It is currently owned and maintained by the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.
The “West Montrose Residents’ Association- The Bridge Keepers” are financial self-supporting through annual membership dues and non-profit donations. Through the years they have held poetry readings & folk music, movie nights, and the popular Carol Sing in December which started in the 80’s and still continues. They own a replica of the bridge which previously was seen in an Oktoberfest parade as well as the Elmira Santa Claus parade.
The “Kissing Bridge” as it is nicknamed has seen many people propose or wedding pictures taken and many photos have been taken from land, water and sky. Pictures have been taken in all seasons of the year and during the day and evening.
The “Bridge Keepers” are very aware of the threats to their beloved bridge which could come from floods and ice jams, (which they have seen in previous years), and hopefully that will never happen again also from fire & arson, or neglect. An uncovered bridge could last between 10 to 20 years while a covered bridge life span could be 60 to 80 years.
Tony Dowling was presented with a book “Bridges” as a thank you for being guest speaker.
The next New Horizon’s meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 13th at the Maryhill Heritage Park Community Centre from 10 – 11:30 a.m. Admission is $2.00 which includes refreshments and treats. Guest speaker will be Natalie Stevanus and Jan van Peit, photographers and their topic will be “Photography is a Way of Feeling, of Touch and Loving.
The following sessions include – March 12th Ken Becker, Cruise and Travel Consultant from Expedia Cruise Ship Centre. Topic: Travel…the World is Waiting for You. April 9th Nicola Ross, author of “Loops and Lattes Hiking Guides”. Topic: Trails that Crisscross Dramatic Landscape. May 14th Tara Hebblethwaite, former Miss Octoberfest and Mental Health Advocate. Topic Let’s Talk Mental Health.
Before the talk Joan Haid presented Maryhill Heritage Park committee chairman Sandra Zinger with a cheque for the Park. This is the 12th year that New Horizons have been going at the Heritage Park Community Centre. Joan thanked Sandra Hachborn who every month makes the delicious treats, to Heather Trakalo who looks after the attendance, Tim Vegh who is the computer guru and her husband Earl who helps to set up and take down for the meetings.