Gov. Brown proposes dollars to save Bridgeport |

Gov. Brown proposes dollars to save Bridgeport

Matthew Renda
Staff Writer

The Bridgeport Covered Bridge has been shuttered since 2011, but that may change if the California Legislature accepts Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget as it relates to the California Parks Department deferred maintenance.

An enduring icon of Nevada County that has been imperiled since 2011 may be on course to be rescued after the state governor included funds for comprehensive and necessary repairs.

In Gov. Jerry Brown's 96-page budget proposal, a line item relating to the Historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge shows the governor has pledged to dedicate about $1.2 million to the renovation of the ancient span.

The Nevada County board of supervisors, the Nevada City Council and the Grass Valley City Council have all passed resolutions recently entreating Brown and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to allocate $1.1 million toward bolstering the historic bridge that many claim is the longest single-span, timber-constructed covered bridge in the United States.

"It appears that (Brown) has heard us," said Supervisor Hank Weston in a letter he wrote to his fellow supervisors.

“No matter what happens, there it is in writing with someone acknowledging that this project is important.”
Dave Anderson
South Yuba River Park Association executive director

During its Tuesday regular meeting, the Nevada County board of supervisors will consider approval of a letter authored by Chairman Nate Beason that urges Assemblymen Jim Nielsen and Brian Dahle and state Sen. Ted Gaines to alter the allocation of the funds from a two-phased approach to a lump sum to be distributed next year.

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Currently, the allocation is slated to provide the parks department with $318,000 for fiscal year 2014-15 and the remaining $943,000 during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

"While we are grateful for the governor's commitment to this project in his budget, we would prefer to see the (money) budgeted for 2016-17 moved to 2015-16, as the project is urgently needed so the park can resume contributing substantial funds to the region's economy," Beason writes.

South Yuba River Park Association Executive Director Dave Anderson said he "was thrilled" to hear the news that the project made the budget but cautioned that legislators often wrangle over the budget, meaning nothing is finalized.

"No matter what happens, there it is in writing with someone acknowledging that this project is important," he said.

Anderson has been marshaling his resources to raise funds for the project since gates were installed to shut off pedestrian passage in 2011.

He gave a lot of credit to the three political entities that passed resolutions, also mentioning the town of Truckee, which is expected to pass a similar resolution next week.

"Our local politicians have been wonderful," Anderson said. "It increases awareness in the community, which is important."

Anderson also credited the South Yuba River Citizens League for its support for the past three years.

"It's great news that the Bridgeport covered bridge has been included in the governor's budget," said SYRCL Executive Director Caleb Dardick. "It is more important than ever that the state Legislature hear how important saving this bridge is to our community."

Built in 1862 by aspiring entrepreneur David Wood, the bridge is a vital remnant of local history steeped in the mid-19th century Gold Rush that led to the formation of California and brought about the vast migration of pioneers from the East to the American West.

The bridge — a classic example of the Howe truss, which uses fundamental concepts of Newtonian physics to utilize opposing forces to create a solid immobile structure with minimal use of materials — is 243 feet long.

The bridge's main support system is composed of two gigantic 5-by-14 inch Douglas fir timbers that rest on two granite abutments dug into both banks of the South Yuba River.

Steel and iron serve as the vertical bolstering system, while timber is used for lateral (wind) bracing. The "shake" roof and sides — composed of 27,000 5-inch wide by 36-inch long shingles cut from local sugar pine — were designed to protect the timber components from the elements.

The bridge was designated as a National Historic Site on July 14, 1971. California recognized the bridge as a registered landmark in 1947.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.

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