Partners Bridge The Gap Between Trail Safety and ATV Excursions


Photo of equipment placing cement abutements photo of loader moving bridge to abutements
photo overview of creek crossing site and bridge work photo of ATV gathered in circle near bridge site
(Top left) Large boulders were placed along the bank prior to setting the concrete abutements. (Top right) The 60' bridge, was transported to the site in 2 (30') sections.  The placement of the bridge on the abutements was almost perfectly level! (Bottom left) An overview of the creek crossing site. (Bottom right) A circle of ATV's and UTV's arrived for the ribbon cutting. 

It used to be a highly challenging crossing when Leon Creek is running high, those who attempted to ford it often found their machines floating down stream. However, that is no longer the case, since the Western Slope ATV Association (WSATVA) and their partners installed a small vehicle bridge. With funds provided by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Off-Highway Vehicle Registration Program, the WSATVA purchased the bridge and worked with other partners to provide over 1700 hours of sweat-equity to make the bridge installation and creek crossing a success.

The bridge spans Leon Creek, west of the intersection of Forest Service Roads 260 and 262, approximately 9 miles south of Vega Reservoir.  The river crossing is on the loop from Bonham Reservoir to Vega Reservoir.

“The bridge addresses our safety concerns with some of those smaller, light weight vehicles,” said Loren Paulson, Recreation Specialist for the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.  “We have heard of instances especially during spring runoff, where some equipment was flushed downstream.” With the increasing use of the area by ATV’s and UTV’s and the inherent risks involved at the crossing, the Forest Service approved the project in 2011. 

The bridge spans 60’ and was delivered in 2,30-footsections (weighing over 8 tons) to Vega Reservoir.  The Bureau of Reclamation used their equipment to load the bridge parts and the 24,000 pound concrete abutments onto Mesa County’s loader to deliver them onsite. The US Forest Service trail dozer crew used a 5th wheel equipment trailer to haul the sections and concrete abutments to the worksite.

“Because the bridge location is very remote, just getting the two excavators, dozers and operators to the work site was quite an endeavor, taking up to 8 hours of slow travel time on rough roads,” said Chris Foreman, Forest Service Trails Coordinator.  “It took 5 trips to get the bridge parts on site,” he added. 

The operation involved the full spectrum of heavy equipment provided by club members and project partners including track hoes, 2 skid-steers, front end loaders, a mini-excavator, trail dozers, 2  roller compactors and lots of person-power!   Each day between 23-41 volunteers worked on the project totaling about 130 person-days.

“This probably turned into the largest trail project any trail organization has ever done in the State,” stated Steve Chapel, President of the WSATVA. “It started simple and morphed into this giant project - the logistics of which kept me awake at night” he added. 

Club members volunteered their amateur engineering skills, working with laser levels, transits and tried and true manual tape measurements, to align and install the abutments.  “Our members were able to decide the exact location of the abutments and get them level,” Chapel said.   Usually projects like this are contracted out, but WSATV members were able to complete the project with huge savings.  The fact that no injuries occurred during the often risky work, was a testament to the safety of the group,” Paulson added.

As giant backhoes lifted the bridge sections and set them in place. The steel spans settled with a near perfect level fit.  Now riders of ATV’s and UTV’s don’t need to ford the high waters of Leon Creek. The bridge enables safe, longer and quality ATV ventures!

The following partners made this project possible: Western Slope ATV Association, Bureau of Reclamation, Mesa County Road & Bridge Department, U.S. Forest Service, M.A. Construction, River Bend Machinery, Andy Kelley, Erickson Brothers, Dennis Phillips, and G A Western Construction Company.