In April, 2006, the County of Huron put up a CLOSED sign and barracks on each side of the bridge. The engineer had declared that the bridge was no longer safe for vehicle traffic and there would be no money available to repair it. Pedestrians only would be allowed on the bridge. Many local residents became upset and, during the summer of 2006, they formed a group, calling themselves The Friends of Balls Bridge (FOBB).
One of the members constructed an extremely effective web site and online Petition To Save Balls Bridge. Within 3 weeks more than 500 people had signed. Eventually this number would rise to more than 1000. FOBB got a lot of free press coverage in the local papers, Focus, Goderich Signal Star, The Citizen and was even mentioned in the London Free Press. Their point of view obviously seemed to reflect the thinking of the community at large.
They lobbied both the County Council and the lower tier councillors, and met with the local MPP. 2006 was an election year for the municipal councils, so a Public Forum was organized on October 26th, allowing all candidates to meet with FOBB and to hear why Balls bridge should be saved. The Livery in Goderich was packed. Guest speakers were Nathan Holdth, who had come from Michigan, U.S.A. and Roger Dorton, from Toronto, who had been Ontario’s chief Engineer, specializing in old bridges. Much thanks to their knowledge and professional presentations, this proved to be a turning point and the local politicians who attended that evening committed to make money available for necessary repairs.
In December, 2006, ownership of the bridge was downloaded from Huron County to the lower tier municipalities, Central Huron and Ashfield-Colbourne-Wawanosh (ACW), together with $250,000. The following spring the local MPP made FOBB aware of the fact that the province had announced that infrastructure money had become available for projects such as this and through ACW a grant of an additional $242,000 was received from the Province of Ontario. The Engineering company, B.M. Ross, was retained to oversee the repairs carried out in 2 phases during the summers of 2007 and 2008.
The original people who started FOBB and were responsible for saving the bridge, are:
Daryl Ball, Ethel Ball, John Ball, Spider Campos, Bill & Donna Crawford, Lee & Joy Davids, John & Judy Davids, Rebecca Garret, Joe & Sheila Jankowski, Mark Kernigham, Gerald Lamb, Gun McLean, John Moore, Katelyn Moore, Lloyd & Vera Penfound, Kenneth Penfound, Beth Ross, Bill & Maxine Seers, together with Bert Dykstra – Reeve Central Huron, Ben Vandiepenbeek – Reeve ACW, Deb Shewfelt – Warden and Carol Mitchell – MPP.
All these individuals contributed in saving the bridge. However, Judy Davids and Rebecca Garrett both went more than the extra mile to reach their common goal and infected others with their enthusiasm and passion. All have since been commemorated on two plaques now displayed on each side of the bridge. A copy of an original plaque from 1885 can also be found on the bridge.
And then Balls Bridge had been approved to receive the famous Blue-and-Gold Historical Provincial Plaque!
In November, 2008, FOBB received the Margaret and Nicholas Hill Cultural Heritage Landscape Award from the Architectual Conservancy of Ontario.
Online Petition Signatures
Public Forum at the Livery, Goderich 26 Oct 2006