Friday, March 30, 2007

Murphy Bridge project moves ahead

Inaugural crossing set for late September

Express Staff Writer

Galena Lodge has its share of heavy equipment, including an old front loader. The addition of a new grooming cat, coupled with the completion of the new Murphy Bridge, should improve the valley?s already impressive Nordic ski trails. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Murphy Bridge replacement project is moving along and, baring any unforeseen obstacles, will be in place by the time the 2007 Nordic ski season gets under way. Eric Rector, the Blaine County Recreation District's director of trails, facilities and operations, delivered the good news during the district's monthly meeting Wednesday, March 28.

"Things are going pretty well up there," Rector said of the project, which fell three weeks behind schedule because of a delay in the drawing of the plans by bridge company CONTECH Bridge Solutions.

"We will catch up at some point in the process," Rector said.

As of now, the district expects to order the bridge by May 15. The delivery process could take up to 12 weeks, placing the construction date around Aug. 8. The construction period should take seven to 10 weeks to complete, placing the inaugural crossing of the new Murphy Bridge around the end of September, Rector said.

"This gives us a month of leeway if we need it," said Wally Morgus, the district's executive director, as he knocked on his wood desk.

In addition, a brand new grooming cat approved for purchase by the district on Wednesday could make the inaugural crossing. A single donation from an anonymous, and generous, individual made the $212,000 investment possible.

Murphy Bridge is located along the Harriman Trail, roughly 10 miles north of Ketchum. The existiing log bridge, which spans the Big Wood River five kilometers north of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters, is narrow and cannot support the grooming machine that sets cross-country skiing tracks. The result can be a traffic jam for skiers and a costly and somewhat dangerous detour by the trail groomer onto state Highway 75.

The financial benefits of the project can be summed up by the fact the grooming cat, which costs $175 an hour to operate, must make a 45-minute to one-hour detour around the bridge each of the approximately 100 days that it is in use during the winter.

The district first proposed replacing the bridge in 1998, but had been unable to find a source of funds. A plan to use an old bridge on Warm Springs Road was scrapped about five years ago when it became clear that moving that bridge would cost more than building a new one.

The district estimates that replacement of the bridge will cost about $400,000. In 2004, it received a donation of $200,000 toward the project from an anonymous foundation. Recently, the district received an additional $50,000 donation from another anonymous foundation. The remainder of the project will be funded by the district's Harriman Trail Fund.

The new bridge will consist of a steel frame with a wood surface.

The old Murphy Bridge will be donated to the U.S. Forest Service. It plans to move the bridge up to Alturas Lake, in the Sawtooth Valley, where it will replace the even more decrepit Alturas Lake Creek Bridge.

In other business, the board:

· Heard from Rector on plans to resurface a section of the Wood River Trail system with seal-coat. The 4.5 mile section runs from just south of Gimlet to Hiawatha Bridge. The district is still taking bids on the project. Morgus said the project requires warm weather and will most likely be completed in June or July.

· Heard from Raeghen Peavey, director of youth and adult sports and recreation programs, on the "smashing success" of youth sports leagues. This year the district hosted 40 little league teams, 22 youth basketball teams and 19 soccer teams.

· Heard from Dave Keir, director of partnerships and outreach, who recently hired Piers Lamb as the district's new youth and team coordinator. Lamb, a graduate of Wood River High School and the University of Idaho, will start on April 9.

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