LEWISTON — Questions about who owns a nondescript 55-foot long bridge to the Simard-Payne Memorial Park is causing headaches for the city, the Great Falls Balloon Festival and Museum LA.
The city posted a 2-ton limit on the bridge last week after a crane operator, scheduled to do work at the old Camden Yarn Mill, suggested it needed inspection.
The city did inspect it, determining that the bridge had deteriorated enough to limit its use.
The bridge is located at the end of Beech Street and is designed to carry vehicle traffic from Oxford Street over the canal and into the park. Pedestrian bridges, one just north of Birch Street and another over the Androscoggin River to Auburn, are not affected.
But it is a concern for operators of the balloon festival and for the museum.
"That weight limit would make it hard for us to operate a festival," Joshua Shea, spokesman for the balloon festival, said. "We have trucks, balloonists, vendors and people setting up staging and none of that can fit in a car. We can't operate with that kind of weight limit."
The festival is scheduled for late August and Shea issued a statement Friday afternoon saying organizers were doing everything in their power to make sure it continues uninterrupted.
"But the museum actually needs to use it now, to do some demo work at the mill," said Lincoln Jeffers, assistant to the Lewiston city administrator. Museum LA has purchased the old yarn mill and is working to get it ready to display local artifacts.
City staff and councilors are scheduled to meet with representatives from the festival, the museum and other affected neighbors at a 6 p.m. workshop meeting.
"In a nutshell, we can do $20,000 to $25,000 worth of repairs and that bridge will be good for another five years," Jeffers said. "Or we can do more permanent repairs that cost $200,000 to $500,000."
It's being complicated by questions of ownership, Jeffers said. Lewiston doesn't appear to own it and neither does the museum. Florida Power and Light, owners of the canal, hasn't claimed it, either.
"What we have from the canal documents, there is an easement to 'other'," Jeffers said. "Someone has an easement, but we can't tell who. That's what I'm going to be working on."