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Woe in Monte Rio: Bartletts’ Bridge Is Falling Down

Here in the sleepy hamlet of Monte Rio on the Russian River we don’t take things too seriously. Most conversations we have on local matters end with a shoulder shrug and the saying “Its the river, what can you do?”

When the Dutch Bill Creek bridge at Bartletts’ Market went out in the February flood, life in our little town was upended. Rumors about how the bridge was damaged fall into two theories. One camp believes that a group of marginally housed riverfolk living under the remains of the Pink Elephant Bar cabled together a huge pile of redwood logs for wildcat lumber harvesting. The flood came and pushed the pile of logs against the bridge pilings causing two of them to fail. There is no second theory. I lied about that.

At first, only the Northbound lane in front of Bartletts store was closed. Folks were still allowed to turn right off the Russian River bridge and proceed onto Main Street, while the Northbound lane was coned off and detoured a half mile around Fir Road.

Many drivers coming North refused to use the detour and insisted on trying to go through the Southbound lane. They immediately started getting into standoffs with folks turning off the Russian River bridge. Firearms were threatened, insect spray was sprayed, tensions ran high and there was much honking of horns. The regulars at Bartletts and Fire Chief Baxman were breaking up multiple kerfuffles as drivers refused to yield. Within days the powers-that-be closed both lanes of the bridge with concrete barriers and sent all traffic down the Fir Road detour. This runs right by our house giving us and our neighbors a rude awakening from our bucolic forest dwelling dream.

The clear chirps of the ospreys high in the sky and the mellifluous trills of the Pacific Wrens have now been overridden by airbrakes, diesel engines and once an hour, some variation on the theme of: “F you a**hole, don’t you know how to use a turn signal?”

A particular thanks to the boys in the jacked-up 4x4 trucks who have to rev their engines at the stop sign every time, just in case someone in the 2-mile radius is hard of hearing and didn’t notice them sitting six feet up in the air. Likewise is the joy of 15 Harley Davidsons coming through, with every one of them revving and backfiring as they go by causing the ground to shake. (Damn! 'looking forward to the age of electric vehicles).

There have been several public meetings discussing how Sonoma County won't do this and can't do that. It is a foreboding omen that nearby Moscow Road has been closed for years due to a landslide and road collapse. The word from the meetings is that we will have to wait several years before the bridge can be repaired using FEMA money. Those of us who live here wonder how that's going to fly when the Fir and Bohemian intersection gets flooded up to car door height with the first 5 inches of rain.

Already the detour is causing the fire department a significant response delay in serving residents on the North Side of the Russian River. When the detour is impassable in the rain what will happen? Based on the regular screeching of brakes at Fir and Bohemian a serious accident is unfortunately imminent. Good news though, the Ospreys don’t seem to mind. They are probably thinking…

It’s the river, what can you do?

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