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Flood washes away Forest Hill Park bridge

Andy Thompson

@richmondoutside
July 25, 2014 12:46pm
There's caution tape now where the entrance to the bridge used to be.

There’s caution tape now where the entrance to the bridge used to be.

Yesterday’s torrential rains led to a dramatic re-route of the Forest Hill Park singletrack loop trail popular with runners, mountain bikers and dog walkers throughout Richmond. Just north of the bridge that takes Forest Hill Avenue over Reedy Creek (near Crossroads coffee shop), the trail crosses the creek on a wooden footbridge. At least it used to.

The downpour yesterday brought a wall of water that city trails manager Mike Burton thinks was probably up over the bridge’s handrails. That puts it maybe 8 feet above the rocks that the water usually trickles over this time of year. That is a ton of water.

It’s not uncommon for Reedy to rage like it did yesterday when a storm comes through. That’s why it’s popular with experienced creek boaters, kayakers who paddle narrow streams (usually in the mountains) in high-water conditions. But apparently it was not a boater that was swept downstream by the water, the Times-Dispatch reported, and pinned “against the rocks in the fast-flowing rapids.” The Richmond Fire Department had to be called to rescue the man. They were eventually able to get a rope bag and flotation device to him and pulled him to safety. The rescue tools were still attached to a tree at the scene this morning.

A mountain biker surveys Reedy Creek from one of the sections of bridge washed downstream.

A mountain biker surveys Reedy Creek from one of the sections of bridge washed downstream.

As for the bridge, it was split in half by the floodwaters and left washed up on the banks. Burton said they’d been looking into replacing the bridge even before this happened. Cost estimates for one bridge type ran from $45,000 to $60,000. It they rebuilt it with wood and volunteer labor, it might be cheaper, he said, but they’d run into the same issues of durability that the old bridge had.

For now, the trail (if you’re coming from the hillside below Patrick Henry Elementary School) will be detoured to the old trail that parallels the creek on its east side. Riders and pedestrians will follow that trail down to the Harvey Family Memorial Bridge, then take a left and ride on the asphalt up to the top of the hill. There they’ll take a right and reconnect with the existing trail. Signage showing the detour route should be in place by this weekend.

The ropes and bags from yesterday's rescue.

The ropes and bags from yesterday’s rescue.

Burton said another possibility, instead of building a bridge, would be to cut some new singletrack into the bank on the western side of Reedy Creek between the Harvey bridge and where the trail entered the old bridge. This would be a much cheaper option, but with the bank extremely steep in many areas, he stressed, that this possibility would require more study by his trail crew and may not be feasible.

To see what the trail and the bridge used to look like, click here for our Forest Hill Park page, then scroll all the way down for our Terrain360.com panoramic-image tour of the park.


About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?


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