Historically significant bridge may be destroyed

June 22, 2011
photo - The Squirrel Creek Bridge on U.S. Highway 24 East, housed German prisoners of war in the 1940s in cells that can be seen from this view under the bridge.  Photo by Colorado Department of Transportation
The Squirrel Creek Bridge on U.S. Highway 24 East, housed German prisoners of war in the 1940s in cells that can be seen from this view under the bridge. Photo by Colorado Department of Transportation 

One of Jillian Mitchell’s favorite memories from childhood was her Dad announcing, “Here’s the green bridge. We’re almost home!”

Mitchell, 29, now echoes those words to her two sons, as they drive across the historic landmark to their home in Calhan.

But she may not be able to proclaim that for much longer.

The “green bridge” as locals on the eastern plains call it, is also known as the Black Squirrel Creek Bridge, located on U.S. Highway 24, between Falcon and Peyton.

In 2002, it was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

In 2008, it was identified as one of 12 state-owned bridges in El Paso County in “poor” condition because it does not meet current highway safety standards. 

This fall, unless some other entity steps forward to lay a claim to the bridge and be willing to re-assemble it at another location, the 1934 truss bridge that once housed German prisoners of war in its concrete and rock foundation will be demolished and replaced with a new bridge.

The $4.2 million project, paid for by vehicle registration and car rental fees, will take about a year to complete, said Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson.

An average of 6,500 to 8,500 vehicles use the two-lane bridge daily, he said.
CDOT is willing to dismantle, store and give it away to the right entity and has marketed the bridge through its Adopt-A-Bridge program to the Colorado Historical Society, Colorado Counties Inc. and the Colorado Municipal League, he said.

So far, no takers.

El Paso County’s planning department expressed initial interest, Wilson said.

But it would be too costly for the county to remove the outdated steel structure’s lead paint and erect the bridge elsewhere, county Engineer Andre Brackin said Wednesday.

“We have no use for a structure like that — it’s obsolete, so we could not use it as a retrofit. All you could do is some type of display, and the cost doesn’t seem to justify the benefit,” Brackin said, adding that he did not have a cost estimate.

Wilson said older bridges across the state have been adopted and now decorate bike routes and pedestrian walkways. There are 42 truss bridges, characterized by large triangular beams, on state highways. Of those, 18 are pedestrian or bicycle bridges, 20 are highway bridges and four are for both kinds of traffic, Wilson said. Colorado also has 83 truss bridges on city-and county-owned streets and roads.

Mitchell is not happy about the plans for the green bridge.

“Everybody is like ‘They can’t tear it down.’ It’s sad because it’s such a great piece of history,” she said. “I was they could bypass it during the construction.”

Army-managed German prisoners captured during World War II did logging, construction and farm work in towns on the county’s eastern plains and slept in cells in the bridge’s lower foundation, Wilson said.

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