Following damage to the Astoria bridge that accesses the Snake River Sporting Club in Jackson, Wy., club owners are asking the U.S. Forest Service and Teton County for help. Homeowners and construction workers needing access to the Snake River have been using a nearby emergency route, which is typically closed in winter and is meant for emergencies only.
The owners of Snake River Sporting Club in Jackson, Wy. are asking the U.S. Forest Service and Teton County for help to repair a bridge damaged by a semitrailer, the Jackson Hole Daily reported.
“We don’t have all the answers,” Christopher Swann, CEO of Cygnus Capital Inc., the company that owns the Snake River Sporting Club, told the Daily.
Swann also sits on the five-member improvement service district that manages the Astoria bridge. It’s up to members of that board to decide on how to fix it, but, Swann said, but “we’re not experts on bridge design.”
This is the second time in 18 months that a truck exceeding the bridge’s height limit has damaged the bridge and rendered it temporarily useless, the Daily reported. The Sporting Club had been working to find a design that would prevent that from happening again.
The design was out to bid when another truck hit the bridge Dec. 8, the Daily reported. Since then, homeowners and construction workers needing access to the Snake River have used a nearby emergency route.
The route, which is typically closed in winter and is meant for emergencies only, is owned by the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Daily reported. One-way traffic on the route is being maintained by employees of the Sporting Club from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. But the route doesn’t have avalanche control above it and cannot accommodate large fire trucks, Teton County Emergency Management and the Forest Service said.
The rerouted traffic has annoyed some neighbors who say the Sporting Club’s traffic shouldn’t be borne by the public, the Daily reported.
But for the luxury homeowners, many business employees and hundreds of construction workers who want to get to the club, there’s no other way around, the Daily reported. To limit traffic on the emergency route, the Forest Service has granted access to construction workers and 118 residents, but not to employees or customers of businesses across the bridge.
Swann sent a letter to the Bridger-Teton, Teton County commissioners and three county department leaders asking for “logistical and financial assistance” for a plan to reopen the bridge, the Daily reported. Swann said his team is reviewing “all options,” including repair and replacement. The most expensive would be replacement, he said, though he didn’t have a cost estimate.
Six members of the Snake River Sporting Club Owners Association and the other four members of the club’s improvement service district besides Swann also signed the letter, arguing that their private organizations should not “solely bear” the cost of getting the bridge, the Daily reported.
“While recent media coverage portrays the damage to the Astoria Bridge as a problem for only the landowners and businesses in the [Snake River Sporting Club Improvement Service District] to solve, there is larger set of infrastructure, planning, operating and financing matters that need to be considered,” the letter reads.
It’s unclear how much financial assistance the Sporting Club is asking for, the Daily reported. Swann said club members “can’t spend unlimited money,” but also that “we’re more than willing to absorb some of the financial costs, maybe all of it.”
But the club could use other help, the letter said, like “development of a comprehensive emergency access and use plan” for the surrounding area and a “less restrictive” temporary access plan on the Forest Service road, the Daily reported.
Teton County and the Forest Service should help out, Swann said, since nonmembers often cross the private bridge to get to businesses other than the Sporting Club, like Astoria Hot Springs and High Mountain Heli-Skiing, the Daily reported. Plus, the bridge is part of a system of essential travel.
Swann told the Daily he was worried that hourly employees of the businesses across the bridge would be furloughed or laid off unless the Forest Service allowed more traffic.
In a letter to club members, club Chief Operating Officer Joe Cranston encouraged them to reach out to District Ranger Todd Stiles and his boss, Bridger-Teton Supervisor Chad Hudson, and “urge them for a more reasonable access plan, the Daily reported.”
Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chair Natalia Macker didn’t have comment on Swann’s request for county assistance, but said in a text to the Daily that she would asked for a status update from county staff.
Stiles sent an e-mail the day after receiving Swann’s letter to county commissioners and other Forest Service leaders outlining a permit he recently issued the Sporting Club, the Daily reported.
“I do understand the predicament [Snake River Sporting Club] and the hot springs is in from an economic effects standpoint,” Stiles wrote. “That said, public safety is critically important here, and neither the County Road, and certainly not the Johnny Counts Access are designed for high volumes of winter traffic.”
The permit, which expires Jan. 31., allows Sporting Club employees, landowners, and contractors to use the road, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Daily reported. The permit allows sanding trucks, garbage trucks, and propane delivery with a 35,000 pound weight limit but excludes heavier construction vehicles like concrete and large dump trucks.
The Sporting Club’s engineering firm is assessing the Astoria bridge to determine if it is safe for pedestrians and lightweight vehicles, Stiles’ letter said, the Daily reported. If so, Stiles could authorize plowing of the Astoria Boat Ramp for people to park, walk and hitch a ride, including for Astoria Hot Springs visitors.