Fallen bridge over East Snowmass Creek won’t be replaced this year

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
A portion of a footbridge over East Snowmass Creek fell this fall, forcing U.S. Forest Service officials to dismantle it in October. Due to a lack of funding, the Forest Service has no plans to replace the bridge, which connected the Ditch and East Snowmass Creek trails, this year.
U.S. Forest Service/Courtesy photo |

The U.S. Forest Service has no plans this year to replace a footbridge over East Snowmass Creek that was dismantled in the fall.

The bridge connects the Ditch Trail on the back side of Snowmass Ski Area to the East Snowmass Creek Trail. Built more than 20 years ago, a portion of the bridge fell and Forest Service officials took it down in October, but the division doesn’t have the funding to replace it right now, said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer.

Modern safety and design standards are making it more costly for the Forest Service to replace the deteriorating bridges on its land, she said. The East Snowmass Creek bridge was built with two wooden beams and a single handrail, but a new one there would have to be constructed completely differently and could cost as much as $100,000, Schroyer said.

“We just don’t have the funding we used to, in terms of bridge projects specifically,” Schroyer said.

Jeff Tippett, a member of the ad hoc Snowmass Village Trails Committee, urged the Town Council on Tuesday to put pressure on the Forest Service and consider allocating funds toward the project. Tippett was on the Town Council when the bridge was built in the early 1990s, and he said it took pressure from local elected officials as well as funding from the Snowmass Resort Association to get the bridge built in the first place.

At the time, the Snowmass Resort Association felt comfortable covering the costs with marketing dollars, and Tippett suggested that the dollars could similarly come out of one of the town’s tourism-related funds this time. The real estate transfer tax fund, which supports the town’s recreation spending, has been strained for several years, and Tippett doesn’t think it can support this project.

However, even if the Forest Service secured the funding quickly, the bridge wouldn’t be replaced this year, Schroyer said. Because it would have to be built differently this time, the design would have to undergo the Forest Service’s review process for new construction.

“We don’t move that quickly,” Schroyer said.

The East Snowmass Creek Trail leads to Willow Lake, and from there hikers can go to Maroon Lake and even on to Crested Butte, Tippett said. It also connects to Snowmass Lake, although it’s not the most popular route to that destination, he said.

“It’s very unpopulated, uncrowded,” Tippett said. “You can drive on paved roads and park in a lot that Snowmass Village maintains (at the head of the Ditch Trail). … It would make sense for the Forest Service to jump on this.”

The crossing also is popular with people looking for a longer stroll from the Ditch Trail, said Ted O’Brien, Snowmass Village parks and trails manager. That section of the forest is healthy and uncrowded, he said.

“It’s beautiful,” O’Brien said. “(The bridge) is loved by a lot of people, especially some of the folks who have lived here a long time.”

While the creek is shallow enough to cross most of the year, it can get very high during spring runoff, O’Brien said. Schroyer said she hopes people will use good judgment when hiking the trail this summer.

“I would be much more concerned about an unsafe bridge,” she said.


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