New Brunswick star attraction needs repairs

The big water wheel on the iconic lumber mill at King’s Landing Historical Settlement has ground to a halt and the devastating rainstorms that hit New Brunswick in December are to blame.

Officials at the site say the mill can’t be repaired in time for this summer’s tourist season, but there are plans to fix the wheel and the dam.

Alain Boisvert, executive director at King’s Landing Historical Settlement, said the lumber mill was due for reconstruction under a three-year infrastructure plan.

But when the wintery floodwaters continued to rise until they spilled over the dam, the infrastructure became even more damaged.

The damage isn’t necessarily visible to the untrained eye, Boisvert said.

But an engineer or heritage maintenance officer could detect the warped planks or little pieces of lumber that affect the curve of the all-wooden structure, and the safety issues therein.

Because of these instabilities, the bridge crossing the dam will be closed for the summer, but visitors will still be able to poke around the old grist mill and sawmill, Boisvert said.

He said the many stakeholders involved – the settlement’s board of directors and federal partners among them – are looking for engineering solutions and sources of funding.

Boisvert said while it’s too early to say what the reconstruction will end up costing, at least $500,000 was estimated in the initial planning.

“Here at King’s Landing, we stretch a dollar like no one does,” he said.

However, others have argued that the total will be much more. In the end it will depend a lot on what type of partnership is made, Boisvert said.

“This is why we will knock at many doors, including Engineers Without Borders and partners at UNB.”

Some engineers and maintenance crews have already visited the site to assess the situation.

He said many factors will need to be considered during the reconstruction, including environmental concerns surrounding the health of the pond beside the dam.

Boisvert said he can’t say when the big wheel will start churning water again.

He said the grist and lumber mills are icons.

The rustic setting is one of the most photographed scenes in the province and region, and it has graced the face of stamps.

The reconstructions will be exact replicas of their typical 19th-century forebear, Boisvert said.

The dam – which is crucial to the operation of the mills – is a cribwork, earthen, rolling dam.

The last time the dam was reconstructed was in 1973, from notched cedar logs, clay and rocks.

“We have the blueprints in hand for the way it has to be … this is the beauty of it, the authenticity of it.”

Previously published June 15, 2011; Telegraph-Journal, the Daily Gleaner