HomeNews Forest Service applying for grant to build Deadmanís bridge with local help
Forest Service applying for grant to build Deadmanís bridge with local help
Written by Seth Mensing
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Shooting for better access in 2014
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council signed on to a letter of support backing a bid by the U.S. Forest Service to get a grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to build a permanent bridge across Cement Creek, linking the Deadman’s Gulch trailhead and the beloved local multiuse trail.
In his bid to gather support for one letter from all three towns, Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep went to the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, where there was plenty of support for the bridge, along with some astonishment at the $60,000 price tag. At one time, it was noted, the bridge consisted of a log with the top cut flat. “If you were to go up to the creek right now, it doesn’t look that daunting,” Huckstep said. “But I guarantee you, if you go there in the spring and see the runoff, it will make you fear for your life.” And for good reason, since the log isn’t there anymore. According to Huckstep, no one intentionally took the log out. Instead, it likely washed away, speaking to the need for a more permanent solution. But the one trailusers came up with was promptly snatched up by the Forest Service, who didn’t want unauthorized trails or construction to go up on public land. “That user-created bridge was created in the springtime when water was lapping over that log. I think anybody who went there and looked at that log thought ‘Wow, not only is this thing slick and the water is right there and you’re asking me to walk across it,’ but it did not look sturdy at all,” Huckstep said. The trail is popular as part of the Reno/Flag/Bear/Deadman’s Gulch trail loop. Huckstep said he’s met European mountain bike riders along the trail who had come to the valley just to ride that trail. After the bridge became an issue last year, the Forest Service applied for an grant from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) committee, which, Huckstep explained, “had a sense that this was a project that would benefit non-motorized users, but non-motorized users were not at the table to help promote the grant.” Forest Service trails manager Greg Austin said the OHV committee has also funded a lot of projects in the Gunnison Ranger District in the past, including improvements to the Teocalli Ridge trail, the Double Top trail and several bridge projects. “I was confident last year but we weren’t funded and that might be because we’ve had so much success and they don’t fund everything,” Austin says. As a result, the OHV committee turned down the grant application. This year, the Forest Service is going after the same grant with a lot more support. “A number of entities have come together to help the Forest Service in proposing the grant, in presenting the grant, and with obtaining letters of support,” Huckstep said. “That’s where I came in. As an avid non-motorized user I felt it was critical to have that bridge. That’s also where Doug [Hudson] came in.” Hudson is president of the Gunnison Valley OHV Alliance of Trailriders (GOATs) who said he’s had close calls at the Deadman’s creek crossing and is eager to see a solution. “Dave Wiens with Gunnison Trails, CBMBA and engineering firm SGM agreed to do certain engineering work on project limited to abutments on either side of the creek.” Huckstep said SGM would have engineered the entire bridge, but by doing so they would stretch out the Forest Service process of review and approval to about three months. Ordering a pre-approved bridge design will save that time. SGM Engineers, along with county commissioner Phil Chamberland and a few others, met on site with the OHV committee earlier this year to see exactly what is being considered for the spot. Later a group of stakeholders met on the site with the Forest Service to decide exactly where the bridge should go. The $60,000 to $70,000 estimate attached to the project is still about $30,000 less expensive than the estimate given last year for a bridge nearly wide enough to drive a car across. But considering the revamped design of the bridge is four feet wide and will be built to support bikes and motorcycles, the cost still seemed excessive to the council. “My only concern—and I hate to give you a hard time because I know you’re trying to accomplish, I love that trail—I do agree there are a lot of people who come here to ride single track like that. It’s amazing and it is multiple-use. But I’m very concerned about the fact that we could build a bridge over that creek for about one-tenth of what the Forest Service is going to pay,” Morgan said. “The user-made bridge, it was a little sketchy, but it’s an outdoor sport you know. It wasn’t that bad and I hate to see this amount of money spent on a completely overbuilt bridge because somebody fell off a bridge and sued the Forest Service,” said Morgan. There were nods of agreement among the council members and Huckstep couldn’t disagree. But he urged Morgan and others to understand that the group is trying to conform to the available opportunity. “When you look at what’s going on down on Cement Creek, with users creating a bridge that gets torn out, with users creating a single track that gets filled in … I don’t know there’s any solution for us right now for us to address these types of problems in a different way. But I can tell you that no solution will ever come unless we have people working together on a project like this that can establish some trust and mutual respect, so that in a future if there is a problem then perhaps there is an alternative. You just never know,” Huckstep said. The Forest Service submitted its grant application to the OHV Committee the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, prior to the December 3 deadline. Austin said he and Chamberland will make a presentation to the OHV Committee in person sometime in February and the group should hear the outcome in the spring. “We are very hopeful that we’ll be awarded this grant and we’ll see construction happen sometime next fall,” Huckstep said. Austin said with “the way the state fiscal year works and getting money from State Parks we probably won’t be able to get started next year. I think there’s a misconception that we’re going to build bridge next summer, but more realistically it will be sometime in 2014.”