FLORENCE — The old Jackson Ford Bridge that crosses Cypress Creek was once a major connector between Savannah Highway and the city of Florence, according to local historians.
“At one time, everyone used that road and the bridge,” said Harry Wallace, a local historian who lives nears the bridge. “For years it was one of the major connectors for farmers and people coming from the western part of the county and Savannah, Tenn., into the city of Florence.”
But since 1996, when the Lauderdale County Commission vacated the one-lane wooden deck bridge and property owners closed off a section of Lauderdale 282 going to the bridge, no one has been allowed to travel across the structure.
That didn’t stop people from going to the bridge and gathering there.
Lauderdale County officials said the owners of the former Forks of Cypress Plantation, which overlooks Lauderdale 282 that runs into Jackson Road, put up a fence and a gate to close the roadway in an attempt to prevent people from coming in from the east side of the bridge.
But people have continued to get to the bridge on the western side from Lauderdale 200, also called old Savannah Highway.
“We’ve put up guardrails, built barricades and done just about everything we can think of to block it off, and someone keeps tearing everything down to get to the bridge,” Lauderdale County Engineer Ken Allamel said.
Allamel said the people who are going to the bridge are dumping trash and doing other illegal things.
County officials said needles, drug paraphernalia, beer cans and liquor bottles are frequently found there.
“They’ve even walked out on the wooden flooring and built fires that burned large holes in the flooring,” he said. “It’s becoming a dangerous issue.”
Commissioners along with the nearby property owners have become worried that the bridge is becoming a liability issue.
“That’s what concerns me,” Commission Chairman Dewey Mitchell said. “Since the bridge is county property, we need to do something about it.”
The commission has instructed Allamel to look at proposals for demolishing the bridge.
“It needs to come down,” Commissioner Fay Parker said. “If we can’t keep people off of the it, and it’s in that kind of shape, it’s a dangerous situation and it needs to be gone.”
Allamel said he has talked with one company about removing the bridge and believes the work can be done from the banks. He said not only will the steel structure have to be removed but also the piers, which holds up the bridge on each side of the structure, will have to be knocked onto the banks to keep them out of the creek.
County attorney Chris Smith said the best thing for the county as far as safety and liability, will be to remove the bridge.
Allamel is expected to present proposals for the removal of the structure at the Saturday work session.
Wallace said although the proper name of the bridge is Jackson Ford Bridge, it is more commonly known as “ghost bridge.”
“And I don’t know exactly how or why it got that name,” he said, although he has heard a number of theories. Some say it was called “ghost bridge” because of the ghostly and eerie feeling from the area around the bridge. Others, say it’s because of the mist rising from the creek that makes it seem like ghosts rising.
“What I’ve heard the most is that a group of kids were there and started calling it ‘ghost bridge’ years ago and the name just stuck,” Wallace said. “I guess it will always be known as Ghost Bridge.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.