03/12/2015 12:03 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Spences Bridge loses its bridge

The ​Spences Bridge, B.C., no longer has the bridge across the Thompson River that once gave the community its name. 

The final piece of the bridge was removed this week, more than a year after B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation deemed the bridge a safety hazard and closed it permanently after 82 years in service.

"It ripped the heart out of the community," said resident Hank Hank Klynsoon. "You're going to take our bridge out and rip the two communities totally apart."

'Vital link' for south-side residents

Trudy Mingle, who has lived in Spences Bridge for almost 20 years, has been coming to the bridge every day to watch as it has been dismantled piece by piece.

She lives on the north side of the river, and says residents to the south will be most affected.

"They used to walk a lot and come over this bridge to get their mail. There's the stores here, there's nothing over there. Now, they're losing all that."

Residents can still travel across the river via the Thompson River Bridge, which is part of Highway 1, about a half-hour walk from the old one.

"It is a vital link in our community, especially with our band office being on one side of the river and primary community being on the other, it's difficult for people to get around and it's dangerous on the highways," said Chief David Walkem of the Cooks Ferry Band.

Bridge turned into souvenirs

Residents would like to see the bridge replaced by a new bridge, even if it's just a pedestrian walkway. They say they've been told by the province it would be too expensive.

Souvenirs from the old bridge are available. Piece of the bridge deck were taken and marked as part of the old bridge, and the railings were available for locals to claim.

"One of our locals has put one up beautifully on the Frontage Road. If anyone wants to see Spences Bridge, it's right there for them to see," said Steven Rice, the area director with the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

Those pieces of what was will stir memories in many who remember the bridge.

"I think we've all carved our initials in the paint on the railings and crawled underneath, at least out to the first piers, just on a dare when we were kids," said Walkem.

The community was first called Cooks Ferry, when a ferry was used to connect the two sides of the river. It was renamed when the first bridge was built in 1864. Now without a bridge to carry the name, some locals wonder if it's time for a new name for the community.

To hear more from Spences Bridge residents, click the audio labelled: Spences Bridge residents remember namesake bridge.

To hear more from Thompson Nicola Regional District Director Steven Rice, click the audio labelled: TNRD Director Steven Rice.