Print Residents rally around link to world
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Saturday, 15 October 2011 00:00

A group of residents in Lake Montezuma and the surrounding area are concerned about the safety of the bridge over Wet Beaver Creek on Lake Montezuma Avenue — the only link between their community and the rest of the world.

Lake Montezuma residents concerned about the narrowing distance between the bottom of the bridge on Montezuma Avenue and the creek bed met Oct. 4 to explore options for correcting the buildup of silt and debris.Calling themselves the Save Our Bridge group, some residents have been working for months and years to try and spur Yavapai County into being more active in ensuring the bridge isn’t damaged, or in a worst-case scenario, washed out entirely.

At issue is a large formation of rocks, a boulder bar more than 300 feet long and five to six feet high that runs upstream, downstream and under the bridge. Vegetation and other debris is also collecting on the rocks. Combined with the amount of water already being displaced by the boulder bar, some are concerned another large flood event could wash water over the top of the bridge.

The rocks began accumulating after the big floods of 1993 and 1995, said Virginia Bartling, a member of the Lake Montezuma Property Owners Association and an advocate of fixing any potential problems with the bridge before it is too late.

“I have been voicing my concerns for quite sometime,” Bartling said. “When the county acquired Sycamore Park, they said they could work in the creek. Well, nothing was ever done.”

Bartling said that the county was able to remove some of the accumulating vegetation in 2007, but the larger issue remains.

The group more recently put together a 10-page position statement and sent it to all three members of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, Bartling said, but the group still hasn’t heard anything.

The county has performed some minor repairs on the bridge itself, said Janet Aniol, president of the property owners association, including upgrades to the bridge’s guard rails.

A 2009 ADOT inspection report noted crushed bearings and cracks in parts of the bridge, and the county is currently working on a plan with a contractor and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address these issues, including a planned scouring of the bridge piers.

Bartling said the group hopes that perhaps something can also be done about the boulder bar at the same time, but she’d prefer quicker action.

Bartling said that the county’s flood control department has taken the position that the bar and vegetation will eventually be carried downstream, but she points out it hasn’t happened in more than 17 years.

Bartling, along with group members Karin Krippene and Margaret Holt, went about collecting more than 560 signatures over two weeks this past spring asking the Arizona Department of Transportation to measure the hydraulic capacity of the bridge and recommend to the county to reduce the amount of vegetation near the bridge. Through these efforts the group has also reached out to Gov. Jan Brewer’s office and members of the Arizona Legislature.

Prescott ADOT Division Engineer, Greg Gentsch is waiting on the most recent ADOT inspection report which is expected to contain a hydraulic capacity analysis. According to Aniol, Gentsch plans to contact the bridge group after he studies the findings.

“It’s becoming a mammoth object,” Bartling said. “It’s just frustrating. People here are concerned that there has been no follow-through. We feel it’s a public safety issue.”

Ideally, Bartling said she’d like to see some sort of concrete “flooring” put in the creek bed to prevent similar buildups of material in the future.

Bartling said she realizes getting anything done at the bridge requires a lengthy bureaucratic process, but she feels the need to keep pushing until the community feels the issue has been addressed.

To that end, the group is hoping that more people will contact their county and other representatives about the matter in an effort to spur the wheels of progress into action.

“Now we’re just waiting to see what happens,” Bartling said.