Abandoned bridge once gateway to river
By Matthew Burgoyne
Trimble Bridge Road was abandoned by the county in July 2006, but the memories and history of the area still live on.
The old steel bridge, built across the Apalachee River separating Morgan and Greene counties, is one of the oldest in the county. Due to weathering and age, the bridge was in disrepair by the early 1990s. In March 2005, the two property owners adjacent to Trimble Bridge Road asked the county to abandon it. The two land owners were Bill Zachary and Weyerhaeuser, a corporation that works with forest land development. Both parties cited similar reasons for why they wanted the county to abandon the land – trespassing and loitering. Because it was happening on their land, both Zachary and Weyerhaeuser had an interest in stopping the problem.
As senior planner for Morgan County, Allison Moon has to consider situations like this. When the county was asked to abandon the property, a lot of thought had to be put into the decision.
“We don’t want the bridge taken down, but we also don’t want to designate the bridge as a public access recreational facility or access point,” Moon said.
Creating a recreational facility would be difficult at Trimble Bridge. The road leading to the structure is curvy and graveled. As the road goes farther, it gets thinner and less maintained. Currently, there is a locked gate about a mile down the road.
Passing through the gate, the bridge then comes into view. It is in disrepair, but it carries much historical significance. The signs of trespassing are left in the form of spray paint on the structure itself. As a planner for the county, Moon has to consider all of these characteristics and decide what is best for the land. Some citizens have expressed concerns that Trimble Bridge Road was a public access point to the river, and now it is gone.
“If you want to get a boat and take it on the water, there are plenty of public access points that you can lawfully use to get to the river,” Moon said.
In the case of Trimble Bridge, the county decided that abandonment was the best option.
“When you have two property owners willing to take land out of the county’s hands, it is hard to say no,” Moon said.
When a government abandons land, it is no longer legally required to maintain it. Trimble Bridge Road went to the hands of Zachary and Weyerhaeuser. State regulations required the county to follow a series of steps when it abandoned the property.
“When a county abandons a property, it must notify all adjoining property owners, place a legal ad in a local publication, and hold a public hearing on the issue,” Christian Henry, Morgan County Attorney, said.
Because the bridge structure itself resides in both Morgan and Greene counties, Morgan County officials had to work with Greene County on this issue. Like Morgan County, the planners in Greene County did not want to repair the old bridge.
The county followed all of the legal steps, and in July 2006, the land was legally abandoned. “I voted to abandon the land for the best interest of Morgan County,” Mack Bohlen, Chairman of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, said. At the public hearing when Bohlen voted to abandon the property, he left room for public comment. At the time, no one in Morgan County came to disagree with the decision.
“Until recently, no one had said a word to me for two years that they were upset that the access was cut off to the river at Trimble Bridge,” Moon said.
Though the county abandoned this one access point to the Apalachee River, Moon and the county planners still have plans for the area. Their latest development, which will take place in May when the weather is warmer, is to place GPS devices up the river.
“The river is a place where someone can easily get turned around,” said Moon. The GPS devices would give people navigating the river a way of knowing exactly where they are. This development is underway in the hopes that recreational use of the river will increase.
“It’s clear to us that there is a real recreational tourism interest in the Apalachee River,” Moon said. Trimble Bridge and Trimble Bridge Road are part of a long history in Morgan County.
“You can tell how old a road is by the angle it is aligned. If it is at a 45° angle to another road, it is old,” Moon said. Trimble Bridge Road follows this theory. It is also shown on an 1897 map of Morgan County.
We are not saying that the concerns of the people in Morgan County are invalid, but there are always two sides to the story. I am hoping that is what everyone will understand,” Moon said.