This summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced that a Peyton landmark - the Green Bridge on Highway 24 between Falcon and Peyton - will be replaced.
The Green Bridge, officially named the Black Squirrel Creek Bridge, was listed with 120 other bridges in Colorado in need of repair or replacement.
Four other El Paso County bridges are on the list, but with a budget of $4,604,601; replacing the Green Bridge is CDOT's most expensive project in the county.
Funding to replace the Green Bridge will come from a bridge safety surcharge on vehicle registration fees, according to CDOT's Web site at http://coloradodot.info.
CDOT estimates the replacement project will start by the end of the year.
A plaque embedded in the bridge's cement work indicates construction of the Green Bridge occurred in 1934.
The design of the bridge, supported by cement "rooms" at each end with each "room" having two barred windows, has led many to think the 77-year-old bridge was built by a chain gang whose members were locked in the "cells" at night.
Former Peyton resident Helen Baber would like to put an end to that story, calling it an "old wives tale."
She was 4 years old when construction on the bridge started in 1934, and she remembers it.
Her father and her future father-in-law worked on the bridge, along with the fathers of many of her friends.
The money her father earned from working on the bridge held the family together.
"It was drought time and Depression, and people had big families," Baber said. "We had 16 kids in ours. That's how they had to make a living to feed their children and make their payments on their land."
Baber said every time she and her friends saw the Green Bridge, they were comforted by memories of their fathers working hard to build it.
Another version of the Green Bridge story has World War II German prisoners of war working in the fields around Peyton, locked in under the bridge at night.
The prisoner of war story is another "old wives" tale, Baber said.
In 1943, when Baber was 13, kids were dismissed from school to help with the harvest because of a shortage of manpower.
"Our parents had no help because our brothers were all in the war," Baber said. "I'm sure if there were prisoners there, I would have known. We would have all known, because that would have been a big thing."
Baber said she was so concerned about the bridge's true story that she contacted Richard Manyck, who was El Paso County's bridge foreman at the time, about the bridge's construction.
Manyck wrote back and said the "windows" in the cement were actually put there so the cement forms used to build the supports could be removed once the cement cured. He also wrote that the bars were put on the openings to keep people out, Baber said.
The bridge - a Parker through-truss design fabricated by Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Company - has been in bad shape for a long time.
According to http://bridgehunter.com, the Green Bridge was inspected in December 2008 and given a poor rating for the condition of its deck, superstructure and substructure. Its overall appraisal was listed as structurally deficient.
"I know they can't keep using that bridge, but it's too bad somebody didn't start something four or five years ago and figure out how to move it, or go around it," Baber said.
The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
As a historic bridge, CDOT was required to look for an alternative to demolition, such as rehabilitation or leaving the bridge in place and building a new bridge downstream, but none of those alternatives was feasible, said Lisa Schoch, CDOT's staff historian.
CDOT then advertised the bridge for adoption under the state's Adopt a Bridge program.
"We met with El Paso County and Fountain, and they determined it wasn't going to be cost effective to ... relocate it for a trail," Schoch said, adding that Clear Creek County expressed some interest but decided against it.
Schoch said the new bridge will have a low-profile design that incorporates the Green Bridge's 1934 plaque.
According to messages posted at http://bridgehunter.com Peyton residents care about the bridge.
If it cannot be saved functionally then bypass it and allow it to stay where it is so we may all continue to enjoy it.
This bridge sits in a lot of people's hearts.
Schoch said work on the new bridge is expected to start in October or November. The first task will be building a temporary bridge for routing traffic around the construction zone.
(Click photo to enlarge)
A landmark in Peyton for 77 years, the Green Bridge is scheduled for replacement, with work expected to start by the end of the year.