Hayden Bridge. Photo by Bob Keefer

Take This Bridge, Please!

Hayden Bridge on Marcola Road is looking for new owners, but the liability concerns are real

It is a piece of historic beauty, a truss bridge that crosses the McKenzie River. It’s more than a century old and one of the oldest, if not the oldest, intact bridge in Oregon; it has many stories to be told. 

Hayden Bridge started life in Utah in the late 1880s as part of the first transcontinental railroad. It was moved to Marcola in 1901 and re-erected at its current location by Southern Pacific Railroad. It served the timber industry well until Weyerhaeuser abandoned it in 1987. It was retired in 1989.

And now Hayden Bridge, located east of Springfield next to Marcola Road’s intersection with Camp Creek Road, is at a crossroads. Will anyone take ownership of the bridge and perhaps create a park next to it? Workin’ Bridges, an Iowa-based nonprofit, bought the bridge from Weyerhaeuser in 2016 and refitted it to make it pedestrian friendly with the goal of giving it back to the community. It is doing everything it can to lure Springfield or Lane County to take it.

“It was always intended for something more local,” says Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges. “It firmly belongs to the people of Oregon.”

“We’re trying to find someone to take the bridge,” says John Burgess, a local advocate for Hayden Bridge. “Nobody wants it.”

There are varied reasons for that, from lack of government resources to maintain the bridge to the tangle of right-of-ways that include Springfield, Lane County and EWEB, but the immediate problem Hayden Bridge has seems to be its popularity among swimmers. 

Area swimmers use the structure as a launch point (literally) from either the edge or the very top of the bridge to the water below. That can be as high as 50 feet. The water is not deep and is rocky in spots. Additionally, ropes have been tied to the lower ends of the bridge for swinging.

Those ropes have been taken down by volunteers, only to be put back up by swimmers. “No Jumping” signs have been posted, only to be ripped down by swimmers, then bolted to the wrought iron. Back and forth this has gone, Bowers says, and the liability concerns grow for Workin’ Bridges that someone could be seriously injured.

“It’s not very fun to get those phone calls,” Bowers says of the jumpers, adding that the nonprofit is not financially able to take that sort of hit. “It’s a generational thing. They don’t care. No rules apply to them.”

And, Burgess adds, “Somebody’s going to be horribly, horribly hurt.” 

Workin’ Bridges has approached Springfield and Lane County about acquiring Hayden Bridge and what Burgess says is 3.73 acres on the east side of the bridge as a possible park, which Devon Ashbridge, spokesperson for Lane County, noted in an email to Eugene Weekly.

“We do not have the resources to take on the management and upkeep of another park at this time,” Ashbridge writes. “We have been clear about our resource limitations each time Workin’ Bridges has approached Lane County about the future of their Hayden Bridge site.”

Yet the efforts will continue, Burgess says. 

“I want to see this succeed,” he says. “Yes, it will happen. It should happen.”

Besides, he adds, Hayden Bridge is “the bridge that everyone should want.”

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