Until a rough road was pushed through in 40’s and 50’s, travel and shipping out of the Dunster area was done primarily by train or on foot/horse. For those on the “wrong” side of the river from the train, crossing was quite an ordeal. In the winter, they could walk across the ice, and in summer they could use a boat, but during spring break up and before the ice had firmed up, crossing the river became quite dangerous.
In 1916, a government ferry was installed in the present site of the bridge. Bonny, the ferry man, would use a row boat for passengers, rather than the larger ferry, but was said to charge 50 cents per person after 7 pm. A bridge was constructed on the same site in the winter of 1920 and by April of 1921, was ready for traffic. The site was chosen, not because that was where the ferry was, but rather because of the gentle banks on both sides. This bridge was used for over fifty years before it was replaced in 1973 by the current bridge.
It wasn’t until the ‘90’s that the bridge gained its famous colourful artwork. While preparing for the 75th anniversary, community members asked for a new coat of paint for the bridge. Although they did not get the geranium pink they asked for, Dunsterites were surprised when it was repainted a nice blue. It was repainted three years later back to standard white. Dissatisfied with the colour, several Dunster women painted flowers on the wood siding in the middle of the night. Not happy with the “vandalism”, the Ministry of Highways had the bridge painted white again within a week of the new artwork. The artists went to McBride to meet with Highway’s head officer and foreman about the bridge, but during the meeting, someone painted bright flowers over their white truck—and made the headlines. The flowers were re-painted on the bridge and despite alterations, flowers have remained on the bridge since. The name of the bridge was changed to the “Dunster Flower Bridge” in the mid ‘90’s.
Photo: Dunster Bridge, newly built, early 1920’s. Bert Blackwood, whose farm is on the right, set up a sawmill and cut some of the timbers for the bridge. Blackwood collection.