Make the McKenzie Connection!

Echoes from the Past

Preservation funds sought for Belknap Bridge restoration

Reprinted from the June 16, 2011 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

EUGENE: The Lane County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday was slated to approve applications submitted by Public Works Dept. for grant funding under the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program (NHCBP) for the Belknap, Office, Unity, and Pengra covered bridges. The program would pay for approximately 90 percent of project costs, with the remainder coming from county coffers.

If approved, work on the Belknap Bridge in Rainbow could take place in 2012. Previous restoration of the structure occurred in 1992 when the structure was re-roofed, decayed, or damaged portions of the bridge house were replaced, new floor decking was installed and it was repainted.

Details of the $434,900 work plan would include replacing a decayed 40-foot chord section of the bridge, along with a 26-foot diagonal brace that has affected the structure’s load-carrying capacity. During the rehabilitation, crews would have to lift the bridge to replace the rotten members. After replacement, they would need to “retune” the structure by adjusting each of the bridge’s 48 tension rods.

Other items expected to be addressed at the same time include fumigating the structure for bugs, replacing decayed floorboards and stringers, lag screwing loose decking to the stringers, cleaning, blasting, and repainting tension rods to protect against corrosion, replacing a section of guardrail and again repainting the bridge.

Man sentenced to 26-1/2 years for Hot Springs murder

USFS volunteer was killed in 1996

Reprinted from the January 27, 1999 edition of River Reflections

EUGENE: A three-year-old murder case came to a close last Wednesday with the sentencing of a 42-year-old transient. Michael Robin Walters avoided a death sentence in the killing of Robert Lutz, 62, of Harrisburg by pleading guilty to intentional murder. He is to serve 26 & 1/2 years in prison.

Lutz had been a USFS volunteer at Terwilliger Hot Springs near Cougar Reservoir. After he retired from a Las Vegas wrecking yard, he kept busy doing odd jobs like cleaning the mineral pools and rebuilding the steps leading to them. Though Lutz set up a solitary camp for himself near the Springs, he became friends with many of the people who visited. One of them was Walters, who shot him in the chest while the older man was driving him and two other people to Eugene in August of 1996. Lutz never made it to a family gathering over the Labor Day weekend and relatives feared the worst. Police were brought into the matter on September 16 when a motorhome owned by Lutz was found abandoned at a Raton, New Mexico truck stop. Investigators called his sister in Harrisburg, telling her the vehicle had been rifled and there was no sign of her brother. It had been there for 12 days. In October the prime suspect became a 24-year-old transient who was arrested in Denver on a Springfield warrant for a felony weapons charge. Connected to several canceled checks, a ring, and some of Lutz’s other personal belongings, police held the suspect for six weeks before releasing him and saying he was not being charged in connection with the murder. On November 30, 1996, witnesses led police to the spot where the body had been dumped on a logging road near the small town of Curtain, in Douglas County. The following summer, Walters was arrested in Osceola, Missouri on July 12 for drunk driving. He was extradited to Oregon on the same Springfield warrant as the earlier suspect. In his first court appearance later that month Walters pleaded not guilty to murder.

Stripes may come back, but not downtown

Reprinted from the March 23, 1984 edition of River Reflections

Yellow lines down the middle of the McKenzie Highway have been a point of conflict since the Oregon Highway Division spent $4,700 last August to sandblast off several no-passing zones. Area residents protested their removal during a 6-Year Plan hearing in Eugene as well as at a special meeting with highway officials at Leaburg in December.

However, according to James Gix, Region 3 area Highway Engineer in Roseburg, the stripes had to be removed to bring parts of the McKenzie into compliance with statewide rules for highway markings. Some no-passing zones in Cedar Flat, Walterville, Leaburg, and Vida were changed from a double line to a dotted line in the compliance change. Some 25,000 linear feet - or nearly 4 miles - of double lines were removed.

Yet the striping controversy continues with the federal government getting into the act. Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation informed the Oregon Highway Division that the state must stripe horizontal curves or face the prospect of losing federal aid construction money. The threat is similar to one the feds used to cajole states into enforcing the 55 mph speed limit, Gix notes.

Gix says Oregon’s non-compliance with the horizontal striping is part of a 30-year-old conflict between the federal government and the state. Oregon already outlaws passing on vertical curves where visibility is limited to less than 1,000 feet. Yet even allowing passing on flat curves, Gix says Oregon passing rates are still admirable, ranking 44th highest out of 50 states for safety in passing on curves.

“Will the no passing stripes be repainted in downtown Vida and Leaburg? “Not likely,” is Gix’s response since those areas are straight-a-ways. More likely is the prospect of more striping added to other areas of those communities - like no passing zones around the Leaburg Lake curve and the Goodpasture Bridge curve in Vida.

 

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