Bridge over trouble gulch leaves Eden firefighters struggling

Apr 12, 2021

The historic bridge in Eden's hamlet of Clarksburg has been blocked off since Oct. 15, since the driver of a loaded propane truck lost control on the steep hill leading down to the bridge. The truck hit the bridge, then fell into the gulch below. That left the bridge damaged and two fire departments struggling to provide protection.

Langford-New Oregon Assistant Chief Charles Hohman was on scene when the incident happened.

"It was a standard transmission and it looks like he missed a gear trying to downshift," Hohman said. "So at that point, that's actually free wheeling and got to the bottom. And just before he crossed New Oregon Road, he bailed out and then the truck hit the bridge."

The truck driver was injured, but Hohman said it could have been much worse.

"I mean the tank did not leak, which was fortunate for everybody, because if that propane would have been leaking, it could have gone all down the creek bed and who knows where or something could have happened," he said.

As it was, a crane usually used for train wrecks had to be brought in to lift the propane tanker out of the gulch safely.

The Langford-New Oregon and East Eden fire companies roughly meet at the intersection. Langford-New Oregon would have to take one or another major detour, while East Eden can't send its fire equipment down the hill and the road isn't even open in the winter.

This map of area fire company districts shows Clarksburg and its bridge near the top, left-center of the map.
Credit Langford-New Oregon Fire Company

Eden Supervisor Melissa Hartman said the town wants and needs the bridge.

"It's on historic registration. We don't want to lose that. It's kind of not only on the Register, but it's a historic piece of our town, as well," Hartman said. "If we can fix that safely, that's our number one choice. Our second choice would be if they determine that that's not feasible or we can't do that and create a safe bridge, then we would like to replace it in a replica-type version."

The bridge likely won't be repaired or replaced this year and firefighters are watching carefully.

Erie County lawyers are studying whether the propane company insurance can cover bridge repairs. The County Executive's office has suggested giving the bridge to Eden and helping the town find grants for repairs or replacements.