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Columbia Falls man aims to save historic Old Red Bridge

Posted at 2:28 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 16:28:51-05

A local man is making it his mission to revitalize a historic bridge in Columbia Falls and transform it into a place for residents to relax and unwind.

Columbia Falls resident Greg Fortin is making it his mission to save the Old Red Bridge.

"It's still a beautiful part of our area. It's just unfortunate to be left the way that it is, and it's been that way for 30 years," said Fortin. "And nobody really seems to take responsibility for it."

Fortin notes that the bridge – which was built in the early 1900s and was the main way to travel across the Flathead River -- wasn't always dilapidated and rundown.

City officials told MTN News that in the 1960s a flood washed out the bottom of the bridge, warping it, making it unusable for vehicles to cross and it wasn't long after the bridge became ineffective.

Fortin recounted that the last vehicle to drive across the bridge was around 1989.

The span is the property of Flathead County and county commissioner Randy Brodehl told MTN News that there have been efforts to reconstruct the bridge.

"Around 2005, 2008 -- somewhere in there -- was an attempt to raise private funds to restore the bridge," explained Brodehl. "There was a private group up in Columbia Falls and here in the valley that made to match some grant funds. The county was working with them on it. They just couldn't come up with a match."

Brodehl says that since that time, Flathead County has chosen not to move forward with any reconstruction efforts which would cost an estimated $3.8 million.

Fortin told MTN News that he hopes he can raise awareness and enough funds to turn it into a pedestrian bridge. He added that if reconstruction happens, the work will carefully take into consideration the bridge's historical registration.

Fortin says in a face-paced world surrounded by technology, he hopes, that once reconstructed the bridge would be a great place for people to unplug.

"Columbia Falls, with its growth that it has right now," said Fortin. "To have a quiet place that's not just necessarily there for tourism, although it will attract people from the valley. But I think a quiet place like that for people to walk to."

Fortin told MTN News that his next step is to get local businesses to verbally support his efforts to save the Old Red Bridge. Right now, he's looking for 12 businesses to do so. Anyone interested in helping Fortin with his efforts can click here .