ANDOVER – A nearly 30-year-old snowmobile suspension bridge over the Ellis River that collapsed last weekend likely won’t be replaced until spring or summer.

That means sled traffic on ITS 82 will be routed over the adjacent Route 120 bridge, according to Victor Peterson of the Snow Valley Sno-Goers snowmobile club in Andover.

“We have no idea what happened,” Peterson said. “A cable either broke or pulled out or whatever. It was kind of hard to tell, because it crumbled into a heap in the river.”

Built in the late 1970s by the Maine Army National Guard, the 65-foot-long bridge fell about 16 feet into the river right after eight snowmobilers crossed. No one was injured.

Heavy snow last month attracted a large snowmobile crowd to Andover last weekend, which may have stressed the old bridge.

“We had so many people up here. There were hundreds of sleds, because the conditions were so great. It was absolutely perfect. There was a bunch of guys from New Hampshire who had gone over the bridge earlier in the day and went into town for lunch, and they were going back across and there was no bridge,” Peterson said.

“The bridge had a heavy snow load on it and a lot of machines used it that day. It’s just a miracle that nobody was on it when it fell,” added Sno-Goers trailmaster Harold Hutchins.

“In the late 1970s, the National Guard did summer programs and they put the first bridge up for us, but it got hit by a tractor in the 1990s, so, we had to fix it. We used the same bridge, but put new uprights on it,” Hutchins said.

On Sunday, members of the Sno-Goers club removed the destroyed bridge from the river, pulling debris out onto both banks.

Peterson said the club must go before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to get a permit to build a replacement bridge over the river. It must also find financing for the project, but may partner with the Roxbury ATV Riders, an all-terrain vehicle club in the towns of Andover, Byron and Roxbury.

“We were going to try and incorporate (the bridge) into our ATV trail, but now we’ll work with the ATV club in the spring and pull our resources together,” Peterson said.

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