News Local

Fish weirs to net prominence?

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

An interpretive viewing platform above the ancient fishing weirs in the Atherley Narrows will make the important site more prominent, said Mary Lou Kirby, a member of the Mnjikaning Fish Fence Circle.

"As people know, when they go to try and look at the weirs and the national historic site you can't see anything," she said. "It's an important story and an important site, so it will make people more aware of what's there."

The City of Orillia is planning to build a $1.5-million bridge for pedestrians and snowmobilers across The Atherley Narrows, which would replace the old swing bridge, which is not functional, said Coun. Tim Lauer, who sits on the Orillia Trails For Life Committee.

An engineering report was completed to determine if the new bridge could be built on the swing bridge's cement footings, he said.

"(For) the engineering report, they actually dove down and looked at some of the cement structures there," Lauer said. "They have taken core samples, drilled into the cement and everything is up to standard. The way we envisioned it, sitting on the existing cement piers, is doable."

The next step is getting government approval from 11 or 12 levels of government, he said.

A proposal will be coming to council this month, Lauer said. It could take about two years before construction could begin, he said.

"We have great hope for federal funding and provincial funding," he said. "We know that the Trans-Canada Trail people are interested with funding and the snowmobile federation is interested to help fund it."

The bridge would connect Orillia and Ramara Township trail systems.

The observation platform is a big focus for the Orillia Trails For Life Committee in this project, Lauer said.

"We have an opportunity to put that observation platform there and really give people who want to appreciate the age and the history of the fish fence a place to go," he said.

The circle discussed the interpretive centre at its annual general meeting on Sunday afternoon at the Rama First Nation seniors' complex.

"We see the bridge as a real opportunity to have a real interpretive area," Kirby said. "The more people that know about it and appreciate it, the better; especially people who use the waterway because in the past the remaining weirs have been damaged by boat traffic."

If the interpretive centre is created, the circle may put signage up on Highway 12 directing people to the site, she said.

Mark Douglas, fish fence guardian, said the observation platform's interpretive signs would consist of text, graphics and, perhaps, art.

"It will describe the busyness of what it once looked like," he said. "It's one more way of teaching people what an important place this was."

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