We're looking forward to the day when we can visit the South Yuba River State Park and actually walk across the Bridgeport covered bridge.
It's one of the prettiest parks in the area with one of the most unique and historic structures on grounds — the 1862 Bridgeport covered bridge is the longest single-span covered bridge in the world, according to literature available on the state park website.
But the venerable covered bridge has suffered throughout the years from weather-related damage, as well as the stress of old-age and dry rot. An engineering survey in 2011 found structural problems so severe that the Department of Parks and Recreation closed it to foot traffic.
Now days, when you head to the park and walk through the grounds to the bridge, both ends are fenced off. You can only look at it — you can't experience the walk.
An engineering estimate in 2012 called for $1.1 million for repairs. The Parks Department and Caltrans secured more than half a million dollars in federal grants, and some other private and foundation grants have been made. But it could take several more years to raise the remainder through donations.
A temporary stabilization project, at a cost of about $227,000, to stabilize the bridge and prevent further damage or collapse should be done this year.
According to a story from the Grass Valley newspaper, The Union, community groups that have been raising money for the Save Our Bridge committee are changing tactics, and here's where Yuba-Sutter folks can help out.
The governor allocated $1.2 million in his budget proposal for repairs to the bridge; the local groups are now waging a battle with letters to legislators. The money would be there, as long as Gov. Jerry Brown's budget items for the park are left in place. So it's a letter-writing campaign now. Proponents are inviting supporters to write their state delegates, as well as finance committee leaders. If you want to participate, they've made it pretty easy — just go to the website, www.southyuba riverstatepark.org, and click through on the "more information here" button — they provide talking points, form letters, addresses, everything you need to help lobby for this neighboring historical asset.
If you haven't been, by the way, you're missing out. It makes for a great hike along the river, around the hills, through the woods. There are beautiful flowers and birds to watch for. It's great for a picnic. And there's the historic bridge. A few more facts:
• The bridge was built in 1862 by David J. Wood to replace an 1850s bridge that washed out in early 1862. That washout, by the way, occurred during an aggressive rainy season when 115 inches fell from November 1861 through January 1862, it was reported. Several bridges were carried away on the Yuba and in other watersheds in the general region.
• The bridge built as a replacement has a unique design, which combines truss and arch systems into a single structure.
• At the time, there was a river port in Marysville, so the bridge was a part of an important provisioning trail that connected the goldfields in Nevada to the rest of the world. The builder made a business of it, charging tolls to cross. (He charged $1.50 for a two-horse buggy; $4 for a four-horse/ mule/ox team. According to park literature, gross income for 1863 tolls was almost $21,000; and $1 in 1860 equaled about $30 in 2010.)
• The bridge had been allowed to deteriorate, and the state highway commission declared it unsafe, so it was closed to traffic in 1971. Tens of thousands of dollars was raised by private concerns, federal, local and county concerns. The bridge was leveled and realigned laterally, strengthened, raised a few feet, and pieces were replaced. And finally reopened.
• Heavy rains in December 1996 through January 1997 raised the South Yuba to the same level as that 1862 flood (26 feet above low water) and within inches of the bridge decking. Had that work not been done in 1971, the bridge would likely have been washed out.
• On the roof, there are some 27,000 shingles, by the way, each five to six inches wide and 36 inches long, according to the literature. Timber bridges were often covered to protect the wood of the bridge from the weather and prevent deterioration.
– Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal-Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Editor Steve Miller and Assistant Editor Andrew Cummins.