Steamboat Springs A storm is brewing over a collapsed bridge that once connected the Lincoln Avenue post office and Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center.
Down since late April, the bridge was heavily transversed by locals using the health and rec center and wanting to pick up their mail or people parking in the post office lot and heading to the health and rec center. In the early 1980s, the bridge was built over Spring Creek and allowed customers to travel between the two buildings without walking down to the sidewalk and around the post office parking lot.
As costumers complain about the increased hike from building to building, the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association wants to put the bridge back. But Steamboat Postmaster Bill Butler said he does not want to see the bridge because of parking and liabilities issues.
Because property lines are split down the creek, SSHRA cannot build a bridge without the post office's permission, and Butler is not ready to relent.
"We do control property on this side of the land. We do have some control on what happens here. And we prefer not to have the bridge connected on this side of property," Butler said.
But Pat Carney, manager for the health and rec center, said the bridge has two-way traffic as fitness center patrons park at the center and then travel across the bridge to get their mail. And, she said the SSHRA has an understanding with the post office that allows the patrons to park in the lot before 7 a.m. and after 6 p.m., hours when the post office is not open.
"(The bridge) is seen as a great benefit. It is such a convenience to be able to go back and forth on the sidewalk and in through the post office," Carney said.
The bridge came down in late April, when the SSHRA was repairing the bridge and taking out rotting boards, but in the process, Carney said the whole bridge collapsed.
Before repairs, Carney said, SSHRA asked the post office to share the cost of repairing the bridge. Although Butler said the post office did not have the funds to repair the bridge, it did not mind if repairs were made.
The SSHRA said it was willing to fully take on the $2,000 to $3,000 cost of replacing the bridge. But Butler said once the bridge was down, he did not want it to go back up.
The price of additional parking and the liability the bridge would bring were costs Butler said he did not want to take. And he believes health and rec patrons will still come even if it means walking down to the sidewalk on Lincoln Avenue and up Third Street.
"It's all of 100 feet out of their way. They will still come. It is not miles and miles and through cactus and broken glass. It is not a big inconvenience," Butler said. "And the bridge is not bringing extra dollars and cents in here for our business."
His biggest concern, which he said is shared by his superiors in Denver, is that the bridge would be an attractive nuisance liability, similar to a fenced-in swimming pool. A facility like a bridge would attract people, making the owner liable for any injuries.
He said if someone would get hurt walking to or on the bridge while on the post office property, the post office would be held responsible.
But Carney said people now travel from one building to another by cutting through parking lots, which she calls an even bigger liability than the bridge.
"It's so shortsighted and simple minded," Carney said. "Kids on bikes will go through the post office and down to Lincoln."
Health and rec patrons parking in the post office lot during busy hours, Butler said, has been a problem that has lessened since the bridge collapsed. In the past two years, he said there were times when the parking lot was packed, but no one was in the post office.
Without a bridge and stricter parking policies, Butler said illegal parking has dropped by 75 percent this summer.
Carney said an additional 58 spaces will be built this fall at the health and rec center when the Trailer Haven mobile home park is cleared for tennis courts and the existing tennis courts become parking spaces.
Even with the additional parking, Butler said he would not want to see the bridge, but the decision ultimately lies with his superiors in Denver.
"I'm the front-line guy who answers to the postal service. The decision is way beyond me. But if I get a vote, it would be don't have a bridge because of the liability, parking and other issues," he said.
Carney said she has hung signs in the health and rec explaining the bridge situation and said she will try public and political pressure if Butler continues to refuse.
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