FLORENCE — No one disputes that the old Jackson Ford Bridge that crosses Cypress Creek is in bad structural shape. The problem is trying to decide what to do about it.
Lauderdale County commissioners are considering the possibility of demolishing the bridge, which is known by local residents as ghost bridge.
The bridge has been closed since 1996 because of the liability issues.
Property owners on Lauderdale 282, which leads to the bridge, agree with the option because of problems created by the traffic attracted by the bridge.
Since the discussion started earlier this week, a group of residents has emerged who want to save ghost bridge. Evan Tidwell, of Muscle Shoals, spoke to commissioners during a recent work session about the group’s efforts.
He presented a petition with 700 names to the commission. The petition is being posted on Facebook.
Tidwell asked the commission not to make a final decision on demolishing the bridge until the group can meet with them.
He said the group hopes to become a nonprofit organization. He has developed a plan for the bridge and the surrounding area, which would include a gravel parking area, walking path across the bridge, bike path on the bridge and canoe launch.
“We’d like to explore these options,” Tidwell said. “We’re not trying to block (the commission’s) decision; we’re just asking to look at other options rather than tearing it down.”
Commissioners, before hearing from Tidwell, discussed the cost of removing the structure, which is just west of the old Forks of Cypress Plantation at Lauderdale 282 and Lauderdale 41.
The lowest bid submitted is $19,500 and is only good for 30 days, county Engineer Ken Allamel said.
Reva Staggs and her family live near the west end of the bridge and owns property leading to the creek.
“We want to get rid of it,” Staggs said. “People go on the bridge and shoot guns down there all the time, and you don’t know where the bullets are going to end up.” She said bullet shells have been found in a family member’s driveway and yard.
“My daughter is afraid to take her dogs out for a walk when they are shooting because of what could happen,” Staggs said. “The biggest thing that worries me is that someone is going to fall off because of the shape of the bridge.”
Planks on the bridge are old. In some places, huge holes are visible from people setting fires.
Staggs said her daughter was in Regency Square Mall on Monday night and overheard someone talking about the bridge while passing out Save Ghost Bridge fliers.
“They said it was a landmark because it was a great place for kids to go hang out. I would think kids could find a better place than somewhere this dangerous to hang out,” Staggs said.
Since the commission vacated the one-lane wooden deck bridge and a section of Lauderdale 282 going to the bridge was closed, no one has been allowed to travel across the structure.
That hasn’t stopped people from gathering on the bridge.
County officials said owners of the former Forks of Cypress Plantation, which overlooks Lauderdale 282, put up a fence and a gate to close the roadway in an attempt to prevent people from coming in from the east side of the bridge. But people have continued to get to the bridge on the western side from Lauderdale 200, also called Old Savannah Highway. In some cases, they have torn down guardrails and barricades that the county put up to block the bridge.
County attorney Chris Smith said the best thing for the county, as far as safety and liability issues, is to remove the bridge.
Tidwell asked the commission to consider tabling the decision until further discussions could be scheduled.
Commissioners have placed the contract for the demolition on Monday’s commission meeting agenda. The commissioners, however, told Tidwell they would take his request into consideration.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.