A bridge is a bridge is a bridge?

If that is your impression, read on and prepare for a surprise.

Until the Spring Creek Bridge was built, the only way to cross the river in this area was a log and plank bridge 100 ft. upstream, where an old dirt wagon road wound its way north and south through the area. No signs of the bridge remain but remnants of the old road can still be seen to the south of the Park headquarters building, according to James Beauchemin, former Park Manager. The main road north was then the Sun Pass road through Fort Klamath.

The story of the design of the first bridge in the mid-1940s, and the second bridge in 2005, is filled with the passion of the people who believed this bridge, in such a beautiful setting, should be specially designed. They fought tirelessly to make it happen. Without the hard work and dedication of Alfred D. Collier, Andrew M. Collier, Samuel H. Boardman, Conde B. McCullough, G.S. Paxson, Theodore C. Roake, James Beauchemin, Rick Hart, Michael Stinson, Donna Hinze, and Brad Grimm, this historical bridge and its subsequent reconstruction would never have happened. Now, everyone can enjoy the bridge, linked to the past, with each visit to the area. Future generations will appreciate the history of this architectural treasure.

Discussions of how the Spring Creek Bridge would be designed began January 14, 1946 with a letter from S. H. Boardman, State Park Superintendent, to Mr. C.B. McCullough, Assistant Highway Engineer, a famed bridge designer and past Oregon State Bridge Engineer (1919-35) that included this quote:

...I am writing at this time to ask that you give special study as to the design of this Spring Creek Bridge. It will always be in the forefront to the visitors within the park. It crosses Spring Creek where the water boils white, flecked with the tints of Crater Lake. It should be distinctive from the type of our general small creek bridges. If the rock could be found, I would like to see it laid in horizontal courses similar to the bridges on the Westchester Parkway in New York State. The bridge should have walks as the picnic area will be on both sides of the stream.

The first Spring Creek Bridge design was produced in June 1945. This design was a simple slab and beam bridge. Both Alfred Collier, influential Klamath Falls businessman and donor of 146 acres of land for Collier State Park, and Parks Superintendent Boardman, through different avenues, appealed to have a more esthetically pleasing design. In a 1960 oral history audio tape, Alfred Collier states that he talked with Conde B. McCullough, then Assistant State Highway engineer, about the design of the bridge. McCullough told Collier that the “parapet” [railing] design of the bridge was to protect pedestrians from heavy log truck traffic. Collier said he told McCullough “I don’t want parapets.” Collier went on to say that “Spring Creek was too pretty of a river not to see it.” Collier told McCullough that he wanted a “Romeo and Juliet bridge, a nice railing, with a balcony below. One [bridge] that would invite people to stop and enjoy the bridge, and become curious about the rest of the park.” Collier further states in the tape interview that the Spring Creek Bridge is “one of the most beautiful bridges he [McCullough] ever designed.

And so the Romeo and Juliet bridge was built.

It became clear in the early 2000's that Spring Creek Bridge #06884 was going to have to be replaced, so those who knew of its historic importance, immediately began lobbying for rebuilding the bridge as closely as possible to the appearance of the original Romeo and Juliet Bridge while adding modern load standards and widths. The person controlling the purse strings at the state level wanted to put in a standard utilitarian bridge. Supporters of a similar design to the original struggled with the bridge funding department to save the project. Engineer, Rick Hart, though in fragile health because of a near fatal heart attack, saw the project as a chance to top off his career of, until that time, designing bridge maintenance projects, with a signature bridge, and an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. His boss, Bridge Team Managing Engineer, Scott Liesinger, had said to him, “I’m going to give you a bridge, and it’s going to be a challenge.” That proved to be prophetic in more ways than one. In fact, funding problems nearly precipitated further physical ailments for Hart on several occasions. He is quick to credit Brad Grimm, James Beauchemin, and Michael Stinson, along with others, with helping save the vision of the bridge. Finally, the bridge funding was approved and put up for bid. It was awarded to Elting, Incorporated, an Oregon Corporation, by and through its corporate officials doing business at 780 82nd Drive, Clackamas OR 97015. The Spring Creek Bridge portion of the contract was for $3,003,633.00.