NEAR MONARCH — For more than a century, a bridge has brought people from all walks of life and all corners of Montana to enjoy the amenities at Camp Rotary near Monarch in the Little Belt Mountains.
But recently the U.S. Forest Service notified the Rotary Club that the bridge isn’t holding up like it used to. The bridge was de-rated from a 23-ton limit to just a three-ton limit.
Great Falls Rotary Club member John Juras explained, "If we have too heavy of a load go over it the whole bridge could have a sudden collapse with a risk to health and safety because of that."
He continued, "You can take a large pickup truck or a Suburban, but nothing bigger than that to the camp."
While the camp remains open, the failing bridge is already cutting into the camp’s usually full schedule.
Juras said, "We’ve actually lost at least two sets of campers who would have used the camp which helps over 150 kids who wanted to use the camp and they decided they can’t come because the Forest Service has said that bridge is not safe."
The decreased load limit is more than just an inconvenience to campers, it's also a safety issue. Juras said, "The bridge is certainly a factor on whether you can get an ambulance into camp, whether you can get a fire truck in to fight forest fires, a propane truck is something we can’t get into the camp anymore.”
The Rotary Club has hired an engineering consultant and is working with the Forest Service, NorthWestern Energy, and landowners in hopes of raising about $200,000 needed to replace the bridge.
If all goes according to plan, that stronger bridge will be ready to cross by the summer 2020 camping season.