A footbridge over the Roaring Fork River that is part of a hidden-gem trail connection between the Rio Grande and music tent is temporarily closed while crews rebuild the concrete foundation on one of the bridge’s abutments.
The Grindlay Bridge was dedicated in 1993 to honor John H. Grindlay, who passed in 1968 at 59. A plaque on the bridge also memorializes Elizabeth E. Grindlay, John’s wife and mother of their three children, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 88.
The bridge intersects the Rio Grande Trail between the Hunter Creek and Aspen Meadows trails, connecting to a riparian nature walk on the river’s west bank and footpaths that climb steeply up the hillside to Aspen Meadows and the Benedict Music Tent.
The Grindlays lived on lower Red Mountain near what is now the bridge’s eastern terminus. According to Elizabeth Grindlay’s obituary, classical music was a passion and “hers was a familiar face at Aspen concerts, whatever their venue, and she hosted a classical music program on an Aspen radio station.” She was also a Colorado Rocky Mountain School board member and tutor. John, a World War II veteran, was the director of surgical research at the Mayo Clinic before the family’s move to Colorado in 1966, according to Elizabeth’s obituary.
According to anecdotes passed down through the parks department, the family “envisioned a more direct route to the music tent,” said Brian Long, city of Aspen parks and open space senior ranger, who is directing the footing-repair project. “My understanding is they contributed some money to make that connection.”
Some 25 years later, the bridge itself is in fine shape and is one of many quaint and beautiful pedestrian-serving spans along the Rio Grande Trail corridor through Aspen. But the concrete footing on the western, or music tent side, of the bridge was beginning to show signs of failure, Long said.
A project to build a new foundation into the hillside has been underway for a week and a half and is expected to last through June 17. Initially budgeted at $40,000, the cost has increased to $90,000. The contractors are Rock Solid Solutions and GA Western, Long said.
A jack will be used to lift the bridge while the new foundation is built, Long noted, requiring micropiles to be driven into the soil. The project’s footprint does not touch the river, he added.
While staging is taking place on the Rio Grande side of the bridge, the work is mainly on the opposite side, where there is little room other than narrow footpaths.
“It is a challenging project primarily because of the location,” Long said.
Because of the work taking place at the bridge’s west end, the trail hugging the river bank is blocked when it nears the bridge. The trail can still be accessed as an out-and-back hike from the Meadows Trail or two other access paths from the Aspen Meadows campus. The bridge is also blocked until the work is complete from the Rio Grande side.
Long said that the issue with the concrete is believed to be rooted in the structure’s initial construction. At the time, the concrete was mixed on the music-tent bluff and funneled down the hillside.
“The concrete specialists tell me that process opens the door for quality issues,” he said.
Long added that he’s grateful the city is investing the resources to keep the bridge viable for the long term.
“It’s one of the most beautiful areas in town,” he said. “We really do care a lot about this area and this trail.”