Photos courtesy City of Colorado Springs
This bridge is located near Middle Columbine Trailhead.
The city plans to spend upwards of $4 million replacing three bridges
in North Cheyenne Cañon Park, with the help of federal money routed through the state.
The park's master plan
was developed in 2018 in partnership with the community. The park has seen a surge in visitors in recent years, and the city wants to protect the park's historic and natural resources, city spokesperson Kim Melchor says.
"Efforts to replace historic bridges in the park, which began in 2012, is a proactive effort for continued safe access to the park and surrounding community and to better facilitate emergency vehicle access to serve park users and residents," she says via email. "It is important to note that there are no plans to initiate a shuttle system in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. If at any point in the future safety conditions require significant traffic reduction measures, there will be an open public process to consider such measures."
Some residents of the area have expressed concerns that the project is being undertaken to somehow benefit The Broadmoor resort and hotel, which owns Seven Falls. But city officials deny that, noting the project has been in the pipeline for a long time and predates by four years the 2016 transfer of city-owned Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in a land swap.
Aaron Egbert, with city engineering, notes that city fire engines exceed the 20-ton posted load limit of the bridges, though he says the city hasn't cited the fire department for violating the limit.
The work will include making a wider mouth for water to flow through, including at this bridge near Colorado Springs Utilities' intake structure.
Donna Strom, who lives near the park, attended a Jan. 28 public meeting about the bridge project. "I asked if anyone could provide documentation of any incident that had gone badly specifically because of the bridges and got no answer," says Strom, who wonders if widening the bridges is a precursor to widening the roads to handle larger buses for tourist trips, which she has concerns about.
Besides shoring up the bridges to withstand greater loads, Egbert notes in an interview, "My goal is to replace these structures before we have a large storm event and we might lose one to flooding."
The new bridges will have wider spaces to allow for greater "hydraulic adequacy," he says.
Funding for the project will come from nearly $2.9 million in grant money from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which came from federal funds (the city will fund $558,501 of that amount), and $1.2 million from the Rural Transportation Authority, which gets its money from a 1 percent sales tax.
Egbert says state engineers have assigned the bridges sufficiency ratings based on structural integrity of 48.2, 52.3 and 62.1 on a scale where 100 is a perfect score. The other three bridges in the park will be replaced at some point, but for now the city has no funding for them.
So far, the city has completed about 30 percent of the design work and hopes to start construction next fall.
The third bridge is located upstream from Mount Cutler Trailhead.
"I do believe we’ll have to close the park down during the winter," he says. "We would start in September and open back up in April."
The reconstructed bridges will be of natural stone to maintain the historic look of the park, Egbert says. "We are going to do the best we can to match the rock look as we go up the canyon," he says.
According to the city, the bridges will be designed to:
• Enhance safety for all North Cheyenne Cañon Park users;
• Provide appropriate bridge location adjustments where needed;
• Blend with the character of the Park;
• Minimize impacts to the natural surroundings during construction and beyond;
• Accommodate and convey larger rain events;
• Accommodate emergency services during construction and beyond; and
• Meet Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and City standards.