Talon News - Good Local News

By Debbie Israel



August 18, 2017

Debbie Israel

The "Stage Coach" Bridge at Cedar Hill is closed to all traffics including pedestrians

Several citizens came to the San Juan County Commission meeting on Aug. 15 to voice their concerns about the old bridge at Cedar Hill, sometimes known as the "Stagecoach Bridge."

The bridge has been closed to all traffic for some time now, including pedestrians. The county has added chain link fencing to each end of the bridge, which someone cut to gain access, and one neighbor on the north side of the river has put up a locking gate to prevent anyone from entering the bridge.

County Public Works Administrator Fran Fillerup told commissioners there are holes in the decking of the old bridge, and that a structural engineer had been in the area to do a quick evaluation. Fillerup said, "He (the engineer) suggested the bridge be closed, even for pedestrian use, and that a future evaluation be done. We've been able to work with that evaluation now, with the new fiscal year." He added that the bridge is resting on a rock on one side, and that rock has a crack in it.

Fillerup also told commissioners and concerned citizens, "Obviously we recognize the value of the bridge. We've heard from several people about how they've used it in the past. That they want it open. So for now, we don't know whether or not it can be repaired or opened at all. We are keeping a list of people who have contacted us, and when we have that report we'll be able to share it and go over what the county's plan is.

Eight people who live in the Cedar Hill area took the opportunity to tell commissioners how they felt about the bridge and their community. Susan Rarrick spoke first and said she has been walking across the bridge for 25 years. She told commissioners that she feels pedestrian access should still be allowed. She also asked about the pipeline that uses the bridge for support. "I don't know how it's safe for the pipeline but not for pedestrians." The pipeline she referred to run along the west side of the bridge.

Debbie Israel

One land owner has closed off access to the on the north side of the Animas River

Charlotte Metz was the next Cedar Hill resident to take the podium and she said she has lived in the area since 1976. "My kids all went swimming in the river, grand times, and now all of a sudden we're not allowed to walk across." Metz gave some history of the bridge, saying she thought it was built in 1911, "after the 100 year flood." She also said it was a stagecoach bridge back in the day, around 1900, and then, in 1914, was turned into a state highway. After Highway 550 was constructed, the road was turned into a county road. "Then all of a sudden, the road seemed to be a private road. How does a stagecoach road, state highway and then a county road suddenly become a private road?" she questioned. She added, "I don't think it was fair that the road should be shut off from the public after all these years." When she was asked if she felt the bridge was safe, she replied that, in her opinion, the bridge is perfectly safe for walking.

Several others followed and echoed the sentiments of the first two speakers. One person spoke of having their wedding party photos taken on the bridge, others told of swimming, and using the bridge to keep both sides of the community connected. Another said there is a perfect spot for adding a landing for rafters near the bridge.

For now, County CEO said, "Bridges erode and foundations are impacted. We don't know what the outcome is going to be. Our number one priority is safety. The evaluation and load study will tell us a lot. We know how valuable it is to you and we're working to try to identify what steps can be taken." He also asked that he and commissioners be kept up to date on new information about the bridge.


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