Cottage Grove

The Swinging Bridge is coming down

Volunteers have worked for three years to restore the bridge Dana Merryday/The Creswell Chronicle

While it is a bit sad to see something that has been standing since 1965 slowly coming apart, the promise of what is to come tempers that feeling.
Crews from Hamilton Construction Company moved in their equipment last Monday and began to prepare the site for the removal of the existing pedestrian footbridge that spans the Coast Fork of the Willamette.
This is exciting news in Cottage Grove. Anyone raised here is sure to have some stories connected to this historic river crossing known lovingly as the Swinging Bridge. Generations of townspeople have used this route to get to school, deliver the mail, visit friends and family, and generally enjoy getting to experience the river in a unique way.
This popular walking and biking route has been closed for nearly three years due to rot in the wooden support towers. The wheels of bureaucracy sometimes take a while to roll.
Grants were applied for and $200,000 was awarded through the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, some benefits and fundraisers were held, and the people of Cottage Grove never completely gave up hope.
When things did finally happen they came in a rush. In the fall, the City of Cottage Grove put out a request for proposals for a new footbridge and specified their preference for a design/build team. It makes sense that it should be more cost-effective and certainly less likely to have problems implementing the plans if the engineers and builders work together.
After the bids were in and opened, the City’s engineering team reviewed the proposals they had received and made a recommendation to select one of the design teams. The City Council accepted The Ausland Group/Hamilton Construction team’s proposal and so the rebirth of the Swinging Bridge began.
Both firms have connections to the area. The folks at Ausland helped bring the Chambers Railroad Bridge back to life. Hamilton began as a small company in Springfield and has grown to take on huge projects such as the Willamette I-5 bridge that you use if you are passing through Eugene. Once they got their marching orders, the real planning began.
Regulations and liability issues had changed quite a bit since then-city engineer, Roger Sinclair designed the current bridge and a local firm put it up for $8,278. The contract specified that the bidder ”proposes to complete the work in all respects within forty (40) workdays.” Ah, for simpler times!
That 1965 project was the result of the 1964 Christmas Flood that not only took out the Swinging Bridge but did extensive damage throughout Oregon and Northern California.
One thing that was clear from the beginning was that the people of Cottage Grove really wanted the replacement bridge to look and especially to feel as close to the current one as possible. That movement as you cross is something that is a little scary but also an endearing quality to the bridge lovers. In light of that, the City waived the deflection requirements (the amount of allowable lateral movement in the structure) and engineers working on the project got the message loud and clear.
I was able to sit in on the planning meetings with the team and they assured me that the new design is essentially the same as the old one and should feel very much like what we are used to.
While the design, in principle, is the same, there are some aspects that will be different. One is that instead of wood for the support towers, which caused the closure, steel uprights will be installed. The type of steel selected is designed to rust and that oxidation layer provides its protection. It will have a rustic woodtone color that will invoke the old bridge. Also, a marine-grade material will be used for the decking.
Both of these decisions will virtually eliminate the need for maintenance and ensure that we will not be doing a bridge restoration project again for 100 years or so.
On May 13, the city council accepted the plans and voted to allow the firms to begin implementation of the construction schedule for reconstruction of the bridge. That schedule calls for the old bridge to be removed in early July, extensive work on the concrete anchors at each end of the bridge, the refurbishment of the decking hangers, erection of the new towers and replacing all of the cabling.
If all goes well, according to the schedule, we should be having quite a party in early November.
If you would like to follow the progress to rebuild the historic Swinging Bridge you can join ”Friends of Cottage Grove Swinging Bridge” on Facebook or check the City of Cottage Grove website: You also are encouraged to be a fence gawker and see the action for yourself as the crews work to bring back our bridge.
So thanks to all of you Grovers for rounding up your water bills, buying a T-shirt, making a donation, bugging a city councilor, or in general never letting the Swinging Bridge go away. Mark your calendars for November and plan to join our ancestors’ footsteps in crossing the Coast Fork in a time-honored fashion!

You can reach Dana at [email protected]



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