Forsyth County is teaming with the National Park Service to limit access to an abandoned bridge over the Chattahoochee River.
At a work session on Tuesday, Forsyth County Commissioners voted 4-0, with Chairman Todd Levent absent, to move ahead with removing steel beams that connect Settles Bridge to land in Forsyth County in an attempt to stop swimmers from jumping off the structure.
“Some people like to go down and get up on that bridge, the old frame super structure of that bridge, and jump into the river below, even though there are signs and other things there that are designed to discourage and prohibit that,” said Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt.
According to information on the Settles Bridge Elementary website, the bridge was built in late 1916 to connect Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and was "one of the state's longest Pratt through-truss bridges."
In 2017, two swimmers died after jumping off the structure in separate incidents.
Merritt said the NPS did a report that found the bridge is deteriorating and recommended protective measures around approaches to the bridge and “arrange to have the approach spans and main truss span demolished.”
The plan would involve removing steel beams connecting the bridge to land on both sides of the river.
“What would remain would be that center portion of the bridge that would span directly over the river,” Merritt said.
He estimated the cost on the county’s side to be $15,000 and said the NPS has been in contact with historical groups. Commissioners directed county staff to also reach out to local historical groups.
“We’re offering to get this hazard expedited and removed and try to prevent any more incidents,” Merritt said.
Though the plan does not call for removing the entire bridge, Merritt said he could see that being proposed in the future.
“The bridge is in really bad condition,” he said. “It’s my opinion after reading the report that it may fail at some point, and I suspect the National Park Service would want to remove it. I just want to get it done as quickly as we can.”