When the project for expanding County Road 43 running through Kemptville was being discussed, one of the exciting possibilities talked about was the new bridge that would be built over the South Branch River. Ever since the bridge was erected in the 1950’s, it has prevented the passage of most boats using the Rideau Canal from accessing Kemptville. With CR 43 becoming a 4-lane highway, it seemed that a new bridge could be built higher, allowing for the thousands of boats exploring the Rideau Canal each year to venture up the South Branch.
But now it seems that that option has been dismissed.
In 2010, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville completed a Schedule ‘C’ Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) to facilitate improvements to County Road 43 and documented the process in the Four Lane Upgrade of County Road 43, Kemptville Environmental Study Report (ESR) (AECOM, 2010).The ESR examined the effects of the proposed expansion of CR 43 and came to the conclusion that: “Transport Canada has indicated that the current height of the County Road (CR) 43 Bridge is acceptable and given the other constraints on the navigability of Kemptville Creek [should be the South Branch River], raising the clearance of the CR 43 Bridge would appear to have limited benefit. Therefore, the TSC (Technical Steering Committee) deemed that the benefits did not offset the impacts associated with the higher clearances and the TSC decided to remove the alternatives with bridge clearances greater than the existing 3.35m.”
Danielle Kelly, the Environmental Planner & Construction Administration Lead with the construction consultants, AECOM, informed local resident, Dr. Bill Adams, in an email on January 28, that: “Given that the environmental impacts have not changed, the option of a higher clearance has not been included in the current detailed design”.
This indicates a lack of vision in terms of the municipality’s new Tourism Strategy, published just over a month ago, which contains ideas about using the waterways of North Grenville and even imagines the expansion of Le Boat operations here.
Dr. Adams has raised this issue also. “My question is whether this decision took into account the major long term implication on Kemptville as a tourist destination and for residents to create a true high quality town centre based on the historical South Branch rather than the tawdry commercial Hwy 43 developments.”
He also points out that other towns on the Rideau system, such as Perth, are fully accessible to boaters of all kinds, but Kemptville is being left out in that regard. Others in a position to know, have told the Times that the initiative here really rests with the United Counties, as CR 43 is a County Road, and, although they have invested heavily in the expansion of the highway, it may well be that the added cost of raising the new bridge to a height that would allow access to boats would be simply too high.
Of course, the next issue would be how to deal with the bridge at Bridge Street, which would also add as an obstacle. However, it has been suggested that Curry Park could be developed as a marina, with easy access by the trail system and Clothier Street East to the downtown. That, for now at least, seems an irrelevant point, assuming the CR43 bridge will continue to be the main obstacle.