Effort begins to restore Utah’s historic Dewey Bridge | AspenTimes.com

Effort begins to restore Utah’s historic Dewey Bridge

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Grand Junction Free Press fileThe historic Dewey Bridge outside Moab, Utah, as it looked before a fire last spring destroyed all its wooden components " essentially everything that's painted white.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” By the time the ninth cow started crossing the Dewey Bridge in the Taylor Ranch family’s semi-annual cattle drive, the suspension bridge would begin to sway.

“It would start the trampoline thing,” said rancher D.L. Taylor. “I was just sure it would fall down some time with cows on it.”

Now, the fifth-generation rancher has joined forces with a contingent of Colorado and Utah residents to restore the historic bridge, destroyed by a fire last April 6.

The bridge spanned the Colorado River between Moab, Utah, and Grand Junction, and was a familiar and revered landmark for many who passed by, including plenty of Aspen-area residents making their way to Utah to mountain bike and camp.

At a meeting Wednesday, Taylor became the Utah co-chair of the fundraising committee; Grand Junction resident Ron Rouse volunteered as the Colorado co-chair.

They figured it made sense to take a two-state approach.

After all, “If it wasn’t for our river, you wouldn’t need the bridge,” Rouse recalled laughing, of his conversation with Taylor.

Already, a friendly competition has emerged to see which state can raise more money to restore the structure.

The bridge was built in 1916, designed to hold three wagons, six horses and 9,000 pounds of weight, said Grand Junction civil engineer Don Pettygrove. It also was built without nails, he noted.

Part of a restoration project 10 years ago that refurbished some timbers on the bridge, Pettygrove is also involved in the latest effort.

Pettygrove’s memories date to the late ’70s and early ’80s, when he’d haul his family over the bridge in a pop-up trailer. With a heavy load, the sides of the bridge would flex inward, toward the vehicle, he recalled.

“Taller, wider vehicles would get stuck in it from time to time,” Pettygrove said. “It was never designed for auto traffic.”

Rouse fondly remembers as a young boy crossing the bridge in his family’s 1948 Ford. Vehicles crossed one car at a time, he said.

“I think our parents bought us ice cream while we were waiting,” Rouse said. “Dad took pictures.”

“It’s an exciting project,” Rouse said. “It’s like the magic bridge. It just kind of gets inside you.”

“I’m excited as the dickens to be involved,” Pettygrove added.

Rouse estimated the cost to replace the bridge, which was no longer in service when it was destroyed last spring, to be around $1 million. Fundraising efforts will include a website, which is still under construction, he said.

The group doesn’t have much now, maybe about $3,000, Taylor said.

One thing is certain: All funds raised for the project will come from individuals. There will be no tax money funding this project, said Taylor and Rouse.

Restoration efforts were discussed almost immediately after the fire, sparked when a 6-year-old Grand Junction boy playing with a lighter torched grass and brush near the suspension bridge. Winds whipped up the blaze, and it quickly engulfed the wooden structure.


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