Bridge to the future

 

With the recent completion of a new bridge across the Greenbrier River and the installation of a boat ramp, it is a new day in Buckeye.

New boat ramp at the former blue bridge site.
New boat ramp at the former blue bridge site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since 2008, the Greenbrier River and Trail has seen increased traffic, and that traffic has had to traverse a one-lane road  and a less than stable bridge span.

Access to the trail parking area was easy, but off-loading canoes and kayaks was inconvenient and getting them to the river was literally a slippery slope, requiring a climb up and down a sometimes muddy riverbank.

Means of getting from the east side to the west side of the Greenbrier River at Buckeye has changed dramatically through the years.

Originally, there was a ford for wagons, and boats were used to ferry walkers from one side to the other.

The blue bridge was built in 1909 – a major improvement at the time.
Few folks know or remember that the town of Buckeye was at one time located on the east side of the river.
Depending on the river for steam power and the railroad for transportation, the American and Column Lumber Company set up its mill in 1914 where the new road winds its way through the field today.

A VIEW FROM Buckeye Hill shows the town of Buckeye on the east side of the river. The American and Column Lumber Company can be seen along the river’s edge. The photo would have been taken between 1914 and 1917 when the mill was in operation there. Photo courtesy of R. Shearer
A VIEW FROM Buckeye Hill shows the town of Buckeye on the east side of the river. The American and Column Lumber Company can be seen along the river’s edge. The photo would have been taken between 1914 and 1917 when the mill was in operation there. Photo courtesy of R. Shearer

Houses, boarding houses and stores cropped up to support the workers and their families.
The railroad put in three side tracks to accommodate lumber cars.
A small depot once offered shelter to train passengers, as well as a place to ship out and receive products to meet the needs of the community.
The mill moved out in 1917. The depot remained, and over time the side tracks were taken up, allowing a more suitable right-of-way for car and truck traffic.
As vehicles increased in weight and size, the 90 degree turn into the blue bridge became a hindrance, and, at times, nearly led to disaster.
On serveral occasions, drivers of trucks pulling campers or horse trailers unwittingly turned onto Buckeye Station Road thinking they could access the river trail. When faced with that 90 degree turn, backing up was the only way out.
A frightening experience, to be sure.
Good neighbors abound in Buckeye, and former truck driver Stanley McNeill could be called on to back the vehicles around the narrow road so travelers could continue on their way.

Added to the navigation problem was the fact that the blue bridge had a three-ton weight limit. Although not in the best of shape, the bridge was inspected every year and deemed to be safe for travel within its posted restrictions.

A photo of the blue bridge taken during this year’s Great Greenbrier River Race
a photo of the blue bridge taken during this year’s Great Greenbrier River Race

After several studies, including a search for artifacts and a stream study, the Department of Transportation put out a proposal for bids to build a new bridge.

Bilco Construction Company, Inc. of South Charleston began the project last fall, and completed the work Monday, August 3.

The bridge crew worked through freezing temperatures, snow and several encounters with high water in the spring. And now, visitors to the area can enjoy a safe approach to recreational activities.

Safety first. Jill Canterbury flags boats in the Greenbrier River while the blue bridge is being demolished.
Safety first. Jill Canterbury flags boats in the Greenbrier River while the blue bridge is being demolished.

As a compliment to the good people of the area, the bridge crew said they suffered no vandalism nor thefts during their time working here.

A new and improved USGS river gauge has been installed on the bridge, as well. This, too, replaces the old.

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