|This is where the bridge used to be.|
People attempting to cross the creek between Murray Lane and Lockwood Lane in Annandale, next to community garden plots, are now confronted with plywood boards and ropes blocking access to the creek, a sign stating “the damaged bridge has been removed for safety reasons,” and an explanatory note from Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.
|The old bridge needed repairs. [Rick Carlstrom]|
“While we had hoped that the old bridge could be shored up and used until replaced, the old bridge simply was unsafe, and collapsing, due to embankment erosion,” the email from Gross continues. It was removed “in an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of Broyhill Crest pedestrians, including children,” who use it while walking to Mason Crest Elementary School.
|The Park Authority posted this notice for pedestrians.|
Members of the Broyhill Crest Community Association (BCCA) met with Gross and Mark Plourde, FCPA Area 2 manager, in December 2015 to discuss the bridge. Their goal was to have it fixed, not torn down.
The BCCA has requested another meeting with Gross to discuss alternative funding solutions.
Broyhill Crest resident Rick Carlstrom has complained to county officials several times about the bridge over the years. In 2005, county officials told him they agreed the bridge was in “bad shape” but said it would be at least five years before it could be replaced. He got the same answer from FCPA in 2014, and that time was told a replacement bridge would cost $20,000.
|The old bridge was deemed unsafe and in danger of collapse. [Rick Carlstrom]|
When he again complained to Gross and the FCPA in February 2016, he was told the schedule to replace he bridge had changed from at least five years to “a very long time” and that the cost was now $80,000 for a 40 x 6-foot fiberglass pedestrian bridge. [That estimate might include installation and work on the stream banks to stem erosion.]
According to Carlstrom, the bridge had been severely damaged when a tree-trimming crew hired by the county dropped a tree on it a year ago. He suggested the tree company’s insurance policy could pay for the repairs. “That is not a viable option in this case,” because the felled tree didn’t cause the problem, Plourde responded in an email to Carlstrom. The bridge has been collapsing for years due to severe erosion of the stream banks, causing the concrete abutments to fail, Plourde said.
“I realize that this decision will have a negative impact on your community and I apologize for that, but the safety of park users must be our first priority,” Plourde wrote to Carlstrom. “While I understand that schoolchildren use this bridge daily as a shortcut to and from Mason Crest Elementary, please recognize that cutting through a trail in the park is not considered an approved school walking route. Approved routes are public sidewalks and easements.”
|Debris from the old bridge.|
“Fairfax spends 0.7 percent of its budget on parks, Carlstrom says. “The largest portion of that goes to golf courses and the installation of artificial turf fields. I find it extremely unfortunate that the county makes the installation of artificial turf fields, which cost millions, a higher priority than maintaining our existing park infrastructure.”