PHOTO COURTESY LINDA GOLDINGER

BRIDGE to safety

Parkview west gets a safety upgrade

Parkview West residents cheered as a Big Sky Fire Department fire truck crossed their bridge for the first time in years.

“The firetruck created truly a giddy feeling when I saw it come across!” resident Angie DeWispelaere said.

This is a momentous event for a long-time Big Sky neighborhood, noted resident Linda Goldinger.

The May 1 commemoration of Karst Bridge – the one-lane bridge that serves as the only access to the neighborhood of 43 homes was the culmination of nearly two decades of hard work and the completion of a daunting financial puzzle.

“To get to our homes, a firetruck would have to empty its water before reaching the bridge, then refill from the river on the other side of the bridge,” said HOA president Dennis Downing. “In the face of a fire, that’s precious time, risking lives and property.”

The bridge provides Asbestos Trail and National Forest access and is used by hikers, anglers and hunters.

According to a press release, Gallatin County stopped maintaining the bridge years ago, over a long- forgotten misunderstanding with residents or developers in the early 90s. Neighborhood homeowners took over maintenance including painting and resurfacing the bridge. An engineering inspection in the early 2000s brought bad news about the bridge to area residents – major reconstruction would be needed and restrictive weight limits enforced.

“Replacing the wooden support beams with steel and bolstering the bridge so it would support a 36-ton firetruck was a $350,000 project,” Downing said. “For a small subdivision of some 35 residents, mostly full-time working locals, that’s a huge undertaking.”

The HOA applied for a Rural Improvement District (RID) – “a mechanism that finances improvement and maintenance projects by assessing a special district tax on each benefitting property.” In this case, this includes all Parkview West homeowners and residents outside the HOA who needed the bridge to access their homes. Support was in abundance – the community, the fire department, the National Forest Service. According to Downing the county said they had never seen such overwhelming support for a RID request.

Parkview West resident Nick Nelson noted that the RID made the bridge possible.

“It’s not easy—our property taxes will increase from 25 to 30% for the next 15 years—but we all feel a lot safer, knowing a firetruck can get to us in an emergency,” he said.

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