RC residents to meet, discuss options for Old Iron Bridge

Dennis Mansfield, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Clearwater Township closed the Old Iron Bridge effective Nov. 1, cutting off the only access Mike and Cathy Stevens have to the property across the Rapid River. Concerned residents are set to meet and discuss what they'd like to see happen with the 100-plus year old bridge on Dec. 10.


RAPID CITY – Clearwater Township officials might soon find out exactly how many local residents are upset over the recent closure of the “Old Iron Bridge,” with an open forum at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Rapid City set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The aging structure on Glade Valley Road was closed to traffic by order of the township effective Nov. 1, despite offers by the adjacent property owner to take responsibility for the bridge and pay for its repair.

The more than century old bridge was once an important route for the residents of Clearwater Township and pioneers from the north. That was until the bridges were built in town and west of the bridge at Kellogg Road.

Eventually, according to reports, Glade Valley Road became a dead end north of the bridge due to lack of use.

In 2000, because of the lack of local traffic on the now dead-end road, the Kalkaska County Road Commission voted to relinquish its jurisdiction over the bridge. Maintenance of the structure then fell to the township, with the township board voting to take over jurisdiction of the structure.

However, former Clearwater Board of Trustees member Grace Hutchison Beland said the township has failed over the last two decades in its responsibility to keep the bridge, which had seen its load capacity reduced from 10 to 3 tons, in a safe and useable condition.

“Now, it won’t even pass inspection,” she said. “I have no sympathy for the township at this point. They’ve done nothing, as far as the routine maintenance of the bridge.”

Beland admits, overall, the impact of the closure might seem limited, as the Glade Valley Road now only provides access to the property owned by Mike and Cathy Stevens.

“(But) it doesn’t matter if it impacts one family or 50,” she said, adding that the closure cuts the Stevens off from accessing their property. “The bridge is more of a sentimental thing at this point.

“I totally sympathize with the Stevens.”

According to a Facebook post, Mike Stevens stated he’s tried to work with the township, even offering to take over ownership of the structure and spend more than $200,000 to bring it back up to its original 10-ton load capacity.

“We desire and plan to be good stewards and contributors to this community as the years go on,” Stevens wrote in a Dec. 2 post. “However, in good faith this has become increasingly challenging when a township board exists that treats their residents as we and others have been treated.

“The board does not appear to be listening to the majority of the community and frankly neglecting the duties of an elected official by the people,” he added. “Due to a select few personal agendas from township board members, fiscally irresponsible decisions are being made.”

While failing to maintain the bridge, Stevens stated that the township board finally took action. But, that was only after it was informed the family could seek financial damages from the township after being cut off from their property.

At its Nov. 21 meeting, the Clearwater Township Board approved a total of $60,000 in township funds to repair the structure to the 3-ton load capacity. But, Stevens stated that’s not enough. 

“Three tons does not allow for emergency vehicles to pass,” he posted.

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