Basalt’s bridge work fosters community
BASALT – Basalt is transforming a dilapidated old bridge along a busy pedestrian and cycling corridor into a pocket park.
About 80 town residents turned out Saturday for a volunteer work session coordinated by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. They helped build planters and benches on the old 7-Eleven Bridge across the Roaring Fork River.
The bridge was taken out of commission for vehicles in the 1990s when Midland Avenue was extended with a new bridge. Boulders block vehicular access, but the bridge provides a direct route between businesses on the Basalt Bypass and downtown. Nevertheless, the bridge is a victim of neglect. The concrete deck is crumbling in spots, and it had an unattractive guardrail on one side and a chain-link fence on the other.
A citizens committee with town residents Karyn Andrade, Lester Craft, Don Edmonds, Glenn Rappaport, Harry Teague and Michael Tunte asked the Town Council last October to spruce the bridge up. They presented a general proposal. The council approved $80,000 for the project in October. After months of planning, it’s coming to fruition this month.
The long, rectangular planters run the length of the bridge, toward the center of the deck. Benches are placed in an alternating pattern, facing different directions. More attractive, kid-friendly fencing was also erected along both rails.
The new benches provide excellent views up and down the river. It is designed to lure people to stop, check out the river and even sit and have lunch.
“The bridge always had a post-apocalyptic feel to it,” said Teague. “The idea was to make it nice enough to make you want to hang out.”
He stressed that he was only one of several people who worked on the project. It was a team effort, he said.
The town government hired Creative Nature Landscaping as the contractor on the job. Its crews completed some of the complicated work prior to Saturday, then the company helped put the volunteers folks to work. The opportunity was billed as a family work day, so 15 to 25 kids were helping at any given time Saturday, said David Hamilton, executive director of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. They planted flowers.
The tapping of volunteer labor helped stretch the limited budget and also got residents involved. The major thrust of the nonprofit’s work is to engage area residents in projects to create “a sense of ownership for their public lands,” Hamilton said.
Teague said the goal was achieved. When people put sweat into the effort to build something, they feel a closer connection with the project. “Completely, totally – everybody that was there (now) owns the bridge,” he said.
Latino kids and adults helped, as did youth organized by a young man in Basalt who is trying to earn his Eagle Scout merit badges.
The contractor plans to be on the job for about two more weeks, Hamilton said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected later in the summer.
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