Saturday, December 30, 2006

Our three Bridges over Watson’s Creek.

The area where My Grandfather bought property in the early 1900’s was long surveyed into blocks and roadways were marked on Maps, even if not constructed. The unformed roadway that ran past our house was one of them.

My grandfather first bought a house and land package of 20 acres; next he brought four acres or so across the Watson’s Creek, and over the years added to them.

Although these blocks all adjoined and thus became one holding, they were all on separate Title Deeds. To add to the confusion, these blocks were spread over two Shires at the time. In fact the house was in the then Eltham Shire and the access supposedly from an unmade Road allotment, which ran literally through the Healesville Shire property.

I say supposedly from this road because when the Road was properly surveyed in the 1990’s it was found that the access track and Bridge over the Watson’s Creek, was actually in Dad’s property and not along the road reserve proper. (A fact that Dad had often recalled, to any who was interested!) It seems that when the track was first put in, it followed the path of least resistance and not a map line.

Anyway, originally all this “Map marked road” was, was a horse and Buggy track to Grandfather’s house, with a bridge over the Watson’s Creek near the house. Whatever bridge was originally there, was destroyed by the 1927 Bushfires that also destroyed the original house. (This fire is not to be confused with the more infamous fire of the year before in the same area.)

Thus the replacement original bridge that I remember was put in and maintained originally by the Healesville Shire. Sometime in the 1960’s it was repaired and re-decked, again by the Healesville Shire; but later, in the 70’s when a big Gum tree branch fell on it and broke one of the bearers, the Healesville Shire were slow to come to the party and repair it again, claiming they had no records of the bridge and that in fact it was a private bridge and not Healesville Shire’s responsibility. Eventually they compromised and provided a new wooden bearer for the bridge but Dad had to fit it and repair the bridge.

Now this bridge was only ever constructed from Bush timber and so although big was not all that strong and had its liabilities, so Dad came up with a system that worked well for many years. Although he, himself would use it for his own light truck, he would never allow heavy trucks to use it, for fear of it collapsing under the extra weight.

As I said, originally the “Road” only went as far as the house, but during the years it has been privately extended in part. However, even though this Road, according to the map at least, ran from a major artery at one end to a minor access road at the other, it was never even a rough track for the majority of its length.

This changed greatly from the 80’s when the neighbour sold his property, also made up of many blocks, to Bob. Now Bob was into Earth Construction and also into subdivisions, so he put in a new heavy duty bridge just up from Dad’s, on the proper Road site and Bulldozed the road along much further but he only went as far as the end of his property and now 6 homes/families, apart from us, use this Road daily or more.

Bob deliberately stopped at his property’s end, as he did not wish to have this road become a through road with its resulting extra traffic using what is still largely a one lane road. Thus it remains a one entry access road.

Now when Bob wanted to subdivide, actually to re-subdivide as the original subdivisions and Title Deeds were already separate, the Shire told him if he put the bridge and road in, they would maintain both, which they have. So that is the basic history of "our" bridge, as I remember it.

Now, in early December I visited mum on the Thursday as is my wont, and noticed a big sign saying the Bridge would be closed on the 8th for maintenance. It was a timber structure on metal girders, and even though it was in need of a little repair, the bridge was in fairly good condition. As such I thought it would only be for basic maintenance. So I was quite surprised the following week to find that the whole wooden structure had been removed and replaced with a concrete structure.

While pondering this, “my wife remarked that it was probably because of the current Bush fire danger and the concern of the 6 families being isolated and marooned if the bridge did burn down. Later my son remarked that it probably had more to do with the fact that there are now rich people living up there and that they didn’t want a tacky old wooden bridge for their main access.

Who is right? I don’t know but suspect that both may be partially right and that the excuse of fire danger has expedited the replacement of the bridge with a more durable type.

Looking back at these three bridges I came to the following observations:

  1. Some things in life, Jobs, situations, etc are like the original bush bridge that I remember: structure only suited to a limited usage and with strict limitations, which if unobserved would cause irreparable damage, even destruction of the task, situation (bridge) at hand.

2.Other situations, like Bob’s bridge are adequate for the task at hand and most regular demands of its proposed usage, but again are limited in regard to irregular extremes.

3. Yet others, like the concrete bridge, not only adequately meet current and future needs but also unexpected yet possible dangers such as Bushfires.

What type of Bridge are you?

A temporary structure?

One limited in usage?

Or one that is versatile & permanent?

One last thought came to mind as I reread this. All these bridges, even the latest, will need some sort of upkeep and running repairs. What are you doing to maintain your existing structures?

Well that’s my musings for today. Walter

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