By Marcy Stamper
The suspension bridge that spans the Methow River near Mazama has been strengthened by the replacement of its 19-year-old wooden towers with steel members.
The Tawlks-Foster bridge, which carries walkers, skiers and cyclists who use the Methow Community Trail, received some necessary maintenance by staff of the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) and local contractors and engineers.
The upgrade and replacement of all eight towers took almost a month, but much of the work was done at night so that the bridge remained open with only brief interruptions, according to Kristen Smith, marketing director for MVSTA.
“All the work was done by locals, from the engineering, inspections, removal and replacement of the legs,” said Rob Seckinger, MVSTA’s trails manager. In addition to work by MVSTA staff, Palm Construction of Winthrop helped acquire materials and provide labor.
The bridge serves more than 30,000 users annually and, in addition to relatively featherweight users like skiers, hikers and bikers, the bridge accommodates snowcats and snowmobiles for winter grooming and horses.
The bridge is one of more than 30 bridges that MVSTA maintains throughout the trail system. Upkeep of the bridges will cost the organization an estimated $500,000 over the next 10 years, according to Smith.
The retrofit of the Tawlks-Foster bridge cost almost $84,000, more than half covered by a grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. The remainder came from sales of ski trail passes, private donations and the Okanogan County lodging-tax grant program.
MVSTA had received proposals that entailed deconstructing the entire bridge, but the cost would have been prohibitive and the permitting and timing would have been extremely difficult, said Smith.