Frontier Diary: A pedestrian bridge to the heart of Glenwood Springs
March 3, 2016
Let every man praise the bridge that carries him over.
— English Proverb
A yellow backhoe and a group of city dignitaries gathered near the Grand Avenue Bridge on Friday, March 1, 1985. Speeches were made by City Manager Mike Copp and Glenwood Springs Mayor Carl Schiesser to the approval of members of the City Council, the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce, and business owners and citizens of Glenwood Springs. After the backhoe had broken ground, the earth was turned by gold colored shovels. The Glenwood Springs pedestrian bridge project had officially begun.
As Glenwood Springs neared its 100th year of existence, citizens and city officials realized times were changing. For nearly a century, the town welcomed the tourists that made its livelihood possible. But time had taken its toll on the town. So in the early 1980s a movement began to create a welcoming gateway to the downtown core and to promote pedestrian access to businesses and other amenities.
An election in April 1983 brought approval for a three quarter cent sales tax increase to fund city improvements. These improvements included the creation of the brick paved Seventh Street Esplanade near the Denver and Rio Grande Train Depot; sidewalk and tree replacements on Grand Avenue; the removal of parking meters from downtown; the purchase of a street sweeper; and the construction of pedestrian bridges. These improvements were designed to improve the quality of life for Glenwood Springs residents and the quality of the visiting experience for tourists.
By the start of 1985, most of the improvements had been made or were under way. A pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River to access the newly completed Two Rivers Park was a reality. A second pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad tracks, Interstate 70, and the Colorado River connecting the north portion of Glenwood Springs to downtown on the south side was proposed. The budget for the project was capped at $850,000.
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As the groundbreaking ceremony commenced, patrons of the Lariat, a locals' bar affectionately known as "the Rope" located directly across the street from the bridge's south landing, discussed the new bridge. Some were against the project based upon the general principle of cost and need. A Harley motorcycle owner hoped the bridge would be large enough for motorcycle traffic. In balance, the bartender did not believe the pedestrian bridge would increase his business, but felt it would help bring tourists to downtown for other reasons. However, all agreed that the pedestrian bridge should be known as the "Gateway to the Lariat," with one patron quipping that tourists "might as well see the heart of Glenwood."
Pattillo and Associates of Glenwood Springs was awarded the contract for the bridge. Three weeks after the ground breaking, a temporary dam diverted the waters of the Colorado River while concrete footings were poured for the bridge's supporting pier. In mid-July the first two sections of the bridge were lowered into place. By mid-August all sections were set, and the handrails welded into place. The pedestrian bridge was complete.
Gone was the narrow metal pedestrian walkway connected to the east side of the Grand Avenue Bridge that was filled with traffic noise and wrought with splash-over on poor weather days. The new pedestrian bridge separated foot traffic from vehicle traffic. At 10 feet wide, it allowed for easier passage from each direction by multiple users and for those with disabilities. A better view of the Colorado River, the Hot Springs Pool and of the gateway to Glenwood Springs was allowed by the new pedestrian bridge.
The dedication of the pedestrian bridge at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23, 1985, marked the start of Glenwood Springs' Centennial Celebration. As Glenwood Springs celebrated its first 100 years, citizens were looking toward the future with hope and promise. The pedestrian bridge connecting to the esplanade dedicated as the Mike Bosco Parkway was a representation of moving forward with confidence into the future.
Today, 31 years later, it is impossible to imagine Glenwood Springs without the pedestrian bridge. Restaurants now occupy much of the south side of Seventh Street where the Lariat bar was located. The restaurants' out-of-doors dining provide a new downtown welcome for visitors traveling across the pedestrian bridge to the "heart of Glenwood Springs."
And as for the pedestrian bridge, it too is affected by changing times. The replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge requires its removal and eventual repurposing. A new pedestrian bridge connecting the north and south sides of Glenwood Springs will be built, another sign of hope and promise for the future.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. "Frontier Diary," which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Fall, winter and spring hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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