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Covington moves forward with Jenkins Creek bridge project
The rebuilding of a frequently used bridge appears to be good news for some students and area park walkers, but miserable news for some neighbors.
“I’d just assumed it (would) stay the way it is,” said Joe Diambri, who has lived across the street from the former Jenkins Creek pedestrian bridge for 15 years.
The Covington City Council completed the first major step to rebuilding the bridge by entering into a contract agreement with King County at a council meeting May 20th. The roughly 60 foot bridge washed away during a particularly heavy rain storm in the winter of 2010. It took the city nearly three years, but it finally received a $418,000 federal community development block grant from King County in November of 2013. The bridge was originally built in 1990 when the park was owned by King County. Covington received the park from the county in November 2002.
The city’s goal has been to construct a new bridge without using any city funds.
“There were other things we had applied for, we just hadn’t been selected previously,” said Don Vondran, Covington Director of Public Works.
In its prime, the bridge was part of a walking transportation corridor heavily used by residents of the Timberlane neighborhood to get to Covington’s downtown core, as well as by kids hiking to Jenkins Creek Elementary.
Diambari said the bridge, shrouded by thick tree brush, also helped foster an area prone to drug exchange, vandalism and late night/early morning noise. Diambri said it was common to see needles and condoms strewn about the bridge.
“The drug traffic we used to have – it was bad,” Diambri said. “I wouldn’t want my kids walking through. Especially when it’s dark.”
Diambri said children and young adults still cross the creek, hopping the fence or going on private property.
Another neighbor, Juan Morfin, agreed, saying the bridge brings in heavy foot and street traffic to the area houses at all hours of the night. Morfin, who lives in the house he grew up in, said he remembers when the bridge was first built.
“I was so ecstatic when they tore it down,” he said. “It’s quieted down a lot and that’s good.”
Morfin is quick to point out that he enjoys and supports parks. But when he was told of the grant to rebuild the bridge, he said, “that’s a bummer.”
But not everyone is sour on the project.
Mary Burns, who lives on the other side of the park, near the main entrance, feels the Jenkins Creek bridge provides a nice shortcut for the public. She mentioned hope that rebuilding the bridge could increase foot traffic in the park that might scare off some of the more nefarious happenings.
“The shady traffic comes and goes,” she said. “No big deal.”
Covington City Manager Derek Matheson said misdemeanor crimes have been reported in the park, and, because of its naturally isolated location, is prone to issues. However, he said the new bridge design will be wide and strong enough to accommodate maintenance and police vehicles.
“I think the new bridge will help cut down on those misdemeanor crimes by getting more eyes in the park, but I also think that will always be a challenge just due to the nature of the park,” he said.
Matheson said the grant will also cover a boardwalk in the park near Spring Lake that is failing in the same way as the pedestrian bridge did and an asphalt path that connects the boardwalk and pedestrian bridge.
The previous bridge was made of timber boards and logs that rotted and collapsed into the stream after the 2010 storm and flooding. Parks and Recreation Director Scott Thomas told The Reporter at the time that kids continued to use the destroyed bridge on their way to school.
Vondran said the city is going through paperwork and starting the process to hiring a consultant to do design the bridge.
“We don’t know what it will look like at this point,” he said.
Vondran said the city will have a better idea of what kind of environmental assessments will be needed once design planing begins. He said the project will also includes constructing an ADA accessible trail through the park.
The goal is to complete the design in 2014, begin construction in early 2015 and be finished by the end of that summer.
Not everyone is looking forward to completion day.
“If it were up to me I’d put up a 10 foot fence so nobody could get through there,” Diambri said. “With penitentiary barbed wire on top.”