Historic Hardwick Bridge to get facelift in trail development project
The Hardwick Bridge has watched the Roaring Fork’s waters pass underneath it — the Ironbridge community development to one side and both the old and new highways 82 on the other. Currently, it sits unused and overrun with weeds, its modern replacement a river stone’s throw away.
The historic bridge will be getting a second life soon as a pedestrian and bike overpass. A grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation will contribute to the “safe routes” multi-organizational project in south Glenwood Springs, creating foot-traffic access from the Ironbridge community to the Rio Grande Trail and Riverview School.
“You could see all these other alignments that didn’t involve the bridge,” Garfield County Deputy Manager Fred Jarman said. “But all these roads — no pun intended — came back to it as really the most logical in terms of route. It just so happens that we have this opportunity to bring this really historic bridge back into service.”
The larger project as a whole was aimed at creating pedestrian access from the west bank of the Roaring Fork River at the Ironbridge area to the east side, where Old Highway 82, new Highway 82, the Rio Grande Trail and Riverview School are located.
The largest hurdle — and most expensive, according to Jarman — was crossing the river.
After evaluating other locations and even a pedestrian annexation to the adjacent vehicle bridge, project managers decided that Hardwick Bridge wasn’t just the most interesting option, but also the most feasible.
Hardwick Bridge was originally built in 1890 when county commissioners relocated the Cooper Avenue Bridge south to create a passage across the river in the area. It was placed on Hardwick Ranch, from which the bridge derives its name. The original structure was replaced, and what remains now needs a facelift before it’s ready for use again.
Roaring Fork School District Chief Operations Officer Jeff Gatlin said the project will involve replacing the wood decking and guard rails on the bridge before running a path down the middle, but the infrastructure is sound.
“The architecture behind it is really neat,” Gatlin said. “We came up with design aspects that match the original architecture of the bridge so it doesn’t look like some element added to an old, historic structure. We’re going to try to match the aesthetic of the old bridge as much as possible.”
The Revitalizing Main Streets Grant Award from CDOT contributes $149,999 to the project, bringing its total fundraising from grants to just shy of $1.3 million. The trail, which has already seen completion in the more southern parts, will run deep into the Ironbridge community, across Hardwick Bridge along CR 109 up to the Rio Grande Trail.
Students and other users could follow the trail to another trail north, which cuts down to Riverview School.
The path for students from Ironbridge to Riverview would be isolated from traffic save for a crossing of Old Highway 82, which has improvements slated in the form of a user-activated flashing beacon and improved visibility through the project.
“The whole purpose of even having the conversation around this project is getting kids to and from that school safely,” Jarman said.
A survey conducted ahead of the project revealed that 170 Riverview students lived within two miles of the school, but did not specifically cite how many would benefit from the bridge.
The entirety of the project has required collaboration from the school district, the county, RFTA, private landowners and even Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“It’s been a complicated project, but the great partnership that’s driving this has been refreshing,” Gatlin said. “I don’t think there are many projects where there’s that type of coordination and cooperation.”
Completion of the project is currently scheduled for December, but Gatlin noted that factors like winter weather could cause delays.
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