Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Murphy Bridge could be replaced

New span would be twice as wide, aiding groomers

Express Staff Writer

Murphy Bridge, which crosses the Big Wood River about 10 miles north of Ketchum on the Harriman Trail, may be replaced by a new, wider bridge this summer.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is considering the proposal and seeking public feedback.

The deck of the new bridge would be about 16 feet wide, which is more than twice the size of the current bridge—about 5.5 feet wide.

"The new bridge will improve safety margins for skiers, hikers and bicyclists on this popular section of the Harriman Trail," said Dave Fluetsch, special use administrator for the SNRA. "It will also eliminate the present need for the snow groomer to make a significant detour and multiple highway crossings with each ski trail grooming run."

The Murphy Bridge area of the Harriman Trail is heavily used by Nordic skiers, but is somewhat of a headache for groomers.

Since the current bridge is too narrow for a snowcat, groomers are forced to detour off the Harriman Trail, cross state Highway 75 and travel up road to another trail-access point to resume operations.

According to the Sawtooth National Forest, groomers have to negotiate four highway crossings and two miles of detours per out-and-back grooming run.

"The new bridge will eliminate the highway crossings and detours, improve safety, and reduce grooming and maintenance costs," a news release from the Forest Service states.

The existing bridge will likely be used to replace an older structure within the SNRA, such as the bridge crossing Alturas Lake Creek.

The current Murphy Bridge was installed in October 1988. It was named in honor of Dick Murphy, a Wood River Valley resident, avid Nordic skier and supporter of local recreation facilities who was killed in a 1985 plane crash. Funding for the existing bridge came from the Forest Service and private donations through the Sun Valley Cross Country Ski Association.

The Blaine County Recreation District, which is the holder of the Galena Lodge and North Valley Trails cross-country skiing special-use permit on the Harriman Trail, proposes to fund the bridge design, construction and installation project through donations from its supporters.

The project will cost about $400,000, according to Wally Morgus, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District.

The 30-day comment period on the proposal began Jan. 2. Written comments are requested and should be addressed to: Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Attn: Dave Fluetsch, 5 North Fork Canyon Road, Ketchum, ID 83340. Comments can also be faxed to (208) 727-5029 or mailed electronically in a format compatible with Microsoft Office applications to:

Hand-delivered comments will be accepted at the SNRA headquarters office, eight miles north of Ketchum, during normal business hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

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