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Waiting for a Response

Chestnut Street residents want action on Elkins Swinging Bridge

The Inter-Mountain photo by Haley Gordon Gathered in front of the closed Elkins Swinging Bridge are, from left, Bob Collett, Carol Williams, Linda Shomo, Larry Warner, Torin Haupin, Cindy Ulrich, Mary Winans, Janet Crider, Charles Shomo and Gary Phares. These Chestnut Street residents are urging the city to listen to their concerns about their need for a bridge in their neighborhood.

ELKINS — Residents of Chestnut Street are eagerly anticipating the written response they requested from city government by Friday in relation to their letters about the Elkins Swinging Bridge.

The bridge, which was closed for safety reasons in 2016, spans the Tygart Valley River between Second and Third Ward.

“We would like a response… (the city) mentioned they had like $2 million they didn’t know what to do with,” Larry Warner, the author of the first letter sent to the city, told The Inter-Mountain Wednesday.

“Well, we need a bridge, we need sidewalks,” Warner, who is confined to a wheelchair, said. “Find something to spend it on instead of building another parking lot or bike trail or something… That bridge, all it needed was a little bit of maintenance, but not taking the ends off of it.”

“After I get this bridge, I’m not stopping there,” Warner said, noting his neighborhood also has water and sewage problems, as well as damaged sidewalks.

“I’m thinking about running for mayor.” he said. “The spot is vacant and I’ve got enough people that will vote for me, seeing what I’m trying to do.”

Linda Shomo, a lifelong Elkins resident, is a neighbor of Warner’s. Since retirement, she has been attempting to help renovate her neighborhood.

“We bought (our home) to clean the drugs out and they’ve been cleaned out. Now we just need our city to help a little,” she said. “It’s not like we can’t get (a grant). I don’t know if the city doesn’t want us to have our bridge fixed. Something’s not right there. This bridge is not a want, it’s a need.”

In 2016, Elkins City Council voted to reject a state Department of Transportation Division of Highways grant that would have provided 80 percent of the funds needed to demolish the Elkins Swinging Bridge, and construct one that is ADA compliant in its place.

“Like (my neighbor) said, the city has maintained this bridge for 79 years and now they say they don’t know anything?” Shomo said. “And the city disabled it, too. If they don’t own it, why are they disabling it? They said it was dangerous. I walked on it the day before. A bunch of us did, we did not feel unsafe.”

The bridge was closed in 2016 after it was found to be ADA non-compliant. The city removed the ends of the bridge to prevent people from attempting to cross it.

The general consensus of Chestnut Street residents who came out to speak to The Inter-Mountain Wednesday is that they’d like any bridge, not just their swinging bridge. They noted the bridge was a route for them to take into town, to get to doctors’ appointments and other reasons.

The Elkins Swinging Bridge was discussed at Feb. 19’s Municipal Properties Committee meeting, in which Councilwoman Karen Wilmoth stated that she had been in contact with the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission to determine ownership and rights to the bridge. Despite the fact that it’s outside of her ward, Wilmoth has expressed interest in this issue since being appointed to council.

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