Arrow-right Camera


No Room For Nostalgia On Old Waverly Bridge Crumbling Landmark Looking For New Home

FOR THE RECORD: 2-6-98 Map wrong: Spokane County is offering to give away a bridge in Waverly. A different town was shown in a map that appeared on the front page Thursday.

Free to a good home: crumbling concrete bridge. Good with graffiti artists, cliff swallows and small cars. New owner must have large yard and lots of TLC to share.

You haul.

It’s come to this in the town of Waverly, where folks want to dump the old bridge that spans Hangman Creek. After all, a person gets tired of seeing the same bridge, day after day for 74 years.

And Old Familiar is holding back the town’s upward mobility. Two pickups can’t pass on the bridge unless the drivers fold in their mirrors and wipe the dust from their fenders. Combines must be dismantled.

Let’s be blunt: “Character lines” is really just a euphemism for old age. Rusty reinforcement bars show through the bridge’s flaking concrete, and calcium stalactites are growing on the underside, near the swallows’ nests.

So people in Waverly plan to trade their faithful old bridge for a new trophy bridge. There’s no doubt the new bridge will be built; the federal government already has agreed to pay 80 percent of the $1.7 million cost, with Spokane County covering the rest.

But the project has been delayed at least a year, and county engineers say the price has escalated about $140,000 because of one man’s crusade.

Keith Martensen, a part-time Waverly resident who spends most of the year in Seattle, says the old bridge should be restored for use by walkers and bicyclists.

Martensen’s two-year battle has earned him a reputation as a meddlesome outsider in his own hometown.

He lost Round One of his challenge to demolition plans when the county’s hearing examiner rejected his pleas last year. Round Two is Thursday and Friday of next week, when Martensen will argue his case before the state’s Shoreline Hearings Board, which is coming to Spokane for the hearing.

Win or lose, Martensen has succeeded in having the bridge declared eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. That’s a step below actual listing and means that before it demolishes the bridge, the county must make every effort to preserve it.

Letting the old bridge stand where it is would mean endless upkeep and liability, and would increase the risk of floods that could damage the new bridge, said county engineer Neil Carroll. That’s why the county has spent $8,000 advertising the bridge for “adoptive reuse.”

The new owners would have to write a plan for moving and restoring the bridge, and show they’ve got the money to maintain it in the future. In exchange, the county would reimburse up to $69,000 of their costs - that’s the estimated cost of demolition, but far less money than the new owner would need.

The ads appeared in local newspapers, national journals for engineers and state newsletters for historic preservation buffs. Everyone, including Martensen, agrees they were a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The county received one call from Virginia and one from Spokane. Neither person has called back since receiving an information packet.

Only one other concrete bridge has been moved in the United States, said Martensen, citing information from the Historic American Engineering Record, part of the National Park Service. That was a much smaller bridge in Iowa, which was moved in 1957.

Bridges mean romance in Iowa. But National Geographic has never sent a photographer to immortalize the bridges of Spokane County. Who knows whether Dan R. and Anne P. - whose names are forever linked with a plus sign on a girder of the Waverly bridge - are even still together.

The closest thing to sanctuary for unwanted bridges is Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where the doomed London Bridge found refuge in 1968. The graceful granite structure draws 1.5 million visitors a year - something Spokane County might want to consider before it demolishes any bridges, said Lake Havasu tourism director Bonnie Barsness.

“Bridges are suddenly taking on a new interest. They’re really being valued culturally,” said Barsness.

Not in Waverly.

“We’d have blown it up by now but we couldn’t find any dynamite,” said one of the regulars at Hangman Creek Bar and Grill.

Better yet, give it to Martensen, said bar owner Dennis Peters.

“He can take it to Seattle in his suitcase, one brick at a time.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo; Map of Latah area


Click here to comment on this story »