Basalt honored for bridge restoration project
A community project to transform a dilapidated, decommissioned traffic bridge into a pedestrian crossing with the feel of a pocket park earned Basalt special recognition on May 22.
The improvements to the Emma Bridge, also known as the 7-Eleven Bridge, received a Community Sustainability Program Excellence award from the International City/County Managers Association. Basalt won in the small cities category for municipalities with a population of less than 10,000.
Only 10 communities from the entire United States were recognized for projects. “Quite a feat for a small town on the Western Slope,” Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon wrote in an email to the Town Council and government staff.
The city and county managers’ association gives the awards annually to “recognize innovative local government programs or processes that demonstrate innovation, excellence and success in balancing that community’s social, economic, environmental and cultural needs,” according to the organization.
The bridge, once a prime way into Basalt, was decommissioned in the 1990s when Midland Avenue was extended across a new bridge.
A small group of town residents came up with the idea of sprucing up the bridge in fall 2011. Group spokesman Harry Teague told the Town Council that fall during a presentation that the bridge is highly used by pedestrians walking to the bus stop or riding their bikes to connect with a trail. Despite the heavy use, the bridge had a “post-apocalyptic feel” that wasn’t inviting.
The Town Council endorsed the idea to improve the bridge and budgeted $80,000 for the project.
About 80 town residents volunteered for a workday in June 2012. A crew coordinated by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers constructed new benches that provide great views up and down stream. The flowers and vegetation in new planters during warm months make it a place people want to stay. The shabby concrete decking of the bridge was replaced with patterned cement. A guardrail on one side and a chain-link fence on the other have been replaced with more attractive, kid-friendly fencing.
Scanlon’s email said several people in town government and the community deserved credit for the project. He singled out town horticulturist Lisa DiNardo for helping coordinate the work and filling out the application with the managers’ association.
“Lisa’s passion for the project came through in her words and were probably a principal reason our project was selected,” Scanlon wrote.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.