Closed for repairs: Beaver Bridge maintenance project underway

Thursday, September 16, 2021
An Arkansas Deprtment of Transportation crew is busy working on improvements at the Beaver Bridge on Monday morning, replacing the timber deck and railing.

The Beaver Bridge, unofficially known as the Little Golden Gate Bridge, is closed for major improvements to the deck and railing.

Steve Lawrence, District 9 engineer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said heavy bridge crews from Little Rock are working to replace the timber deck and railing on the bridge.

“We have been working underneath the deck, working on the beams, removing old paint and repainting them,” Lawrence said. “We’ve been removing the wooden decking that you drive on … removing the old boards and replacing them.”

Maintenance superintendent Bobby Keeton said the work started in the spring before the crew was called to repair a bridge in another part of the state.

“To the best of my knowledge, they’re about two-thirds done,” Keeton said.

The bridge will be closed through at least 5 p.m. Thursday, Keeton said, until the work is complete. Lawrence said it’s tough to give an exact timeframe on the completion of the work because the crews could be called for an emergency repair or the weather could take a turn for the worse.

“If something happens around the state that’s more pressing, they’ll finish up what they’re doing and leave the Beaver Bridge to work somewhere else, take care of the emergency and come back to work,” Lawrence said. “The main thing that’s helping us now is the weather is cooperating. It’s not raining a lot.”

When asked about reports of a loose board on the bridge over the weekend, Keeton said he hadn’t heard anything about that. Lawrence said the crews are working hard to finish the project. Once the project is complete, Lawrence said, the bridge should be “in really good shape” for the next 10 to 15 years.

“We are getting some much-needed maintenance on that bridge,” Lawrence said. “They are planning to work until we can get that completed. We just have to wait to see what the weather does.”

Several years ago, Lawrence said, there were plans to replace the bridge. Those plans halted after several public hearings, Lawrence said, when it became clear that the bridge was important to the community. If AR-DOT replaces a bridge, Lawrence said, the old bridge won’t be maintained anymore, even if it’s a historical structure.

“When we replace bridges like that, somebody has to take over maintenance or ownership of the bridge or we tear it down,” Lawrence said. “There wasn’t anybody that was willing to take over the ownership of the existing structure. That’s why we’re maintaining the bridge like we are right now. That’s the plan for the future.”

Lawrence acknowledged that it’s inconvenient for locals when a major bridge is undergoing repairs. The bridge is never closed unless crews are working on it, Lawrence said. Holiday Island Mayor Dan Kees said many residents use the bridge as a shortcut to get to cities such as Rogers and Bentonville.

“It affects people that need to get to Rogers, because they have to go through Eureka Springs, which adds quite a bit of travel time,” Kees said.

Nevertheless, Kees said, Holiday Island residents are happy to know the bridge is being maintained.

“It’s an important tourist attraction for the people in Holiday Island,” Kees said. “They don’t mind it being a one-lane bridge. It’s a historical bridge. It’s a scenic bridge. We’re certainly glad it’s there.”

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