FLORENCE — The Jackson Ford Bridge, better known as Ghost Bridge, is coming down.
The Lauderdale County Commission agreed Monday to demolish the structure.
“We are charged to do what is in the best interest of the county as a whole,” Commission Chairman Dewey Mitchell said. “This bridge has been closed since 1999. It continues to deteriorate and there are numerous complaints of illegal activities on the bridge.”
Mitchell said the bridge is a county liability.
“In my opinion, this is long overdue,” he said.
Monday’s decision came after county engineer Ken Allamel said he received verbal confirmation from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Corps of Engineers that permits to remove the bridge would not be required.
Mitchell said the commission also gave a group of individuals, who were interested in try to save the bridge, 30 days to develop a plan and report back to commissioners.
Evan Tidwell, who has been leading the effort to keep the old bridge intact, said in late December that the group applied for nonprofit status.
At last week’s work session, Tidwell said they had not heard anything about the application for nonprofit status.
He said the group was unable to get any surrounding property owners to donate land near the bridge they were hoping to use as a parking area.
The bridge, which is on Lauderdale 282, was built in 1912 and crosses Cypress Creek, according to local historians.
Commissioner Larry Irons said there are four owners of property adjoining the bridge and roadway.
“After hearing from them and getting the information from ADEM and the U.S. Corps of Engineers, we don’t have a choice but to remove it and move forward,” Irons said.
Tidwell said the commission’s decision was sad news.
“It’s such a waste,” he said. “I believe the destruction of the bridge won’t deter the people who will continue to be attracted to an isolated, dead-end road as the location for their illicit activity. That was the goal of area residents 16 years ago when they supported the bridge closure, but it accomplished nothing.
“There are so many personal, emotional ties to the Ghost Bridge. Losing it would be a painful experience for a lot of people.”
Irons said the bridge has been closed for 16 years and no one made an effort to do anything to save it before now.
“I’ve talked with several people who live there and they are concerned about safety. I agree it is a safety issue,” Commissioner Fay Parker said.
The removal of the bridge will cost the county $19,500, county officials said.
Lena Hale, whose family owns property adjoining the bridge, suggested the county use that money and repair the bridge.
“That money would not even start to repair the bridge so it could be used by the public,” Mitchell said. “The road was closed because the bridge was in such bad shape.”
Allamel said it is unknown when the bridge will be taken down, but the contract with Shotcrete of America was signed Monday afternoon.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.