A covered trestle bridge across Tumalo Creek in Shevlin Park, made famous in the 1993 Walt Disney movie “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” is structurally failing and will be removed next summer.

The Bend Park & Recreation District conducted an assessment of the Hixon Bridge in 2016 and found it was reaching the end of its lifespan.

The park district initially planned to replace the 32-foot-long bridge as part of an Americans with Disabilities Act improvement project in Shevlin Park that was partly funded by a $149,000 state grant.

Parametrix, a Bend engineering consultant company, was hired to design the accessibility improvements and concluded replacing the Hixon Bridge was unnecessary because the Larch Grove Bridge is about 500 feet downstream and provides access to the same area of Shevlin Park.

“We figured out that this bridge is really quite redundant,” said Perry Brooks, project manager with Bend Park & Recreation District.

In addition, removing the Hixon Bridge would allow for environmental improvements to the shoreline and riparian habitat along Tumalo Creek. Abutments that support the bridge take up space in the river and constrict the flow of water, Brooks said.

“Eliminating the abutments will help restore the stream flow to a more natural state,” he said.

The abutments were originally built in 1917 for the Brooks-Scanlon railroad trestle which was used until 1957. In the following years, the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Co. family and employees used the bridge to access private picnic areas before the park became public.

The Walt Disney Co. came to Bend in the early 1990s to build walls and a roof to cover the existing bridge so it could be used in “Homeward Bound,” the story of three pets on an adventure to reunite with their owners.

Today, the covered bridge is essentially an old movie prop that was never meant to last, Brooks said.

“A lot of people think the covered bridge is historic, but it’s only about 30 years old,” he said. “They built it to be a prop. That is how we have arrived at the bridge not being in great condition and needing to be taken down.”

Brooks said most people he talks to understand the need to remove the bridge, and he hasn’t heard any opposition from people wanting to save it.

Judy Prindel, a member of the Covered Bridge Society of Oregon, said the organization does not consider the Hixon Bridge an authentic covered bridge because it was originally built with trestles meant for an uncovered bridge and the covering was added afterward.

“It has to do with the trestles on it and the way it was built,” Prindel said. “It’s not made with a covered bridge design.”

At a work session Tuesday, Brooks will give an update to the Bend Park & Recreation District Board about the plans to remove the bridge through the ADA accessibility improvement project in Shevlin Park.

Work to remove the bridge is expected to be complete by October 2019.

Last year, the board approved matching funds to get the $149,000 state grant for the improvement project, making the total budget $298,000.

In addition to the bridge removal, the improvement project will create new handicapped spaces at Aspen Hall and build an accessible trail from the main parking lot to Aspen Meadow and Tumalo Creek.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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