Plans for a Lions Gate Bridge Climb experience in Vancouver have been scuppered by the new BC government after two years of development.
Entrepreneur Kevin Thomson told Daily Hive he was “blindsided” after recently receiving a letter from the provincial government rejecting his proposals.
“I get a letter out of the blue talking about a problem with using infrastructure for a private operation, which has never been mentioned at any point during this process,” he said.
“I don’t believe that they have come up with a reasonable reason, they’ve just said their conclusion….It blows my mind that it would just get stopped in its tracks for no reason.”
Two years of preparations
Lions Gate Bridge was built in 1938 and is 1,823 metres long, with its twin towers standing at a height of 110 metres above the waters of Burrard Inlet.
Thomson’s tours would take climbers on maintenance ladders inside the towers to reach the top of the bridge, where there is a platform for unobstructed views of the region.
Thomson and his team have been working on the plans since 2015, when he first proposed the idea to the BC Liberals’ provincial government.
He said ministry staff gave him many conditions to meet if he was to be permitted to run a Lions Gate Bridge Climb for a trial period.
“I looked at the conditions and I decided I would invest that time and energy to see if we can meet them, because none of it was unreasonable,” he said.
By September 2016, Thomson said, the ministry were pleased with his progress and decided to go through the procurement process.
Unexpectedly, he says, another potential vendor applied for a chance to bid on the project too, prompting the government to deliberate further on the project.
Thomson said he thinks the vendor should have been included after the trial period, but instead the whole project was hugely delayed.
Eventually, the delays ran so long, the election rolled around, said Thomson, and since then he has been waiting to hear how they would forward on the bridge climb.
‘It was devastating and confusing’
Thomson said receiving the rejection after working so hard on the project was very emotional.
“It was devastating and confusing and surprising and all the things that you just don’t want to see on something you’ve been spending two years of your efforts on,” he said.
Having climbed up the bridge’s 110-metre high ladder many times while developing the project, Thomson describes the experience as “magical.”
“You can’t see the top of the ladder, it’s beyond our comprehension,” said Thomson.
“It’s an adventure that you would never have an opportunity to do anywhere else…It is an outrageous experience.”
Thomson even said there are some surprises at the top that he wants people to discover for themselves, but the experience has changed the way he sees the bridge.
“Now every time I go across the bridge, I’m connected to the bridge in a new way, so I’m feeling different, the bridge is more alive to me than it ever has been,” he said.
“Who knows how popular it would be, but for many people it would completely change their opinion and their experience of Vancouver.”
‘Not in the best interest of British Columbians’
In a statement sent to Daily Hive, Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, explained the government’s rejection.
“When we formed government, we looked closely at this proposal and determined it was not in the best interest of British Columbians,” she wrote.
“This is a private company requesting the ongoing use of a major piece of public infrastructure for commercial gain. Our government has decided not to support this type of venture.”
Speaking to reporters about the policy, Trevena said the film industry would still be permitted to use public infrastructure.
“You have a permit to use the Lions Gate Bridge for a great car chase scene, that’s one thing,” said Trevena.
“You have some commercial enterprise wanting to use it day after day for a commercial venture, that isn’t appropriate.”
No negative side effects, says Thomson
But over the course of his research, said Thomson, he has found no negative side effects to operating a bridge climb on Lions Gate Bridge.
Some are concerned bridge climbers could distract drivers, but data from the BridgeClimb Sydney doesn’t bear this out, he said.
And overwhelmingly, said Thomson, people are in favour of the bridge climb, even if they don’t plan to venture up those heights themselves.
Now, he says, he and his team of safety, communications, and tourism experts are deliberating what to do next.
He has already requested a meeting with the ministers of tourism and transportation, but that request was denied, he said.
Ideally, he would like the chance to give BC Premier John Horgan a full presentation to show the concept and benefits of the bridge climb project.
“I can’t seem to communicate to the people that are the decision makers and that’s probably the most frustrating thing in all this,” he said.
“I don’t know what they’re basing their decision on.”
For more information about the Lions Gate Bridge Climb project, check here: lionsgatebridgeclimb.com.