Editor’s Note: This last paragraph was updated to reflect the historical use of the Johnny Counts emergency access route as a Forest Service administrative access-only route.
JACKSON, Wyo. — The Astoria Bridge, which connects US 26/89 to Snake River Sporting Club, Astoria Park Conservancy and a number of residential homes, closed on Dec. 8 after a semi-truck not compliant with the height restrictions struck the frame of the bridge.
The accident occurred just before 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 8. Law enforcement responded to the scene and closed the bridge immediately due to the damage, based on a visual inspection.
Since the closure, temporary access has been restored to residents and workers via Hoback Junction South Road to the Johnny Counts access route, managed by the Bridger Teton National Forest.
The access point is very narrow, close to the river and upon its opening, Teton County urged caution on the Hoback Junction South Road, stating the route is “not designed for high traffic levels.”
Evan Guzik, Public Affairs Specialist for Bridger Teton National Forest told Buckrail that a usage permit is currently in the works for a longer-term solution.
“Right now obviously that Johnny Counts emergency access route is being used. Our district ranger and permit administrator as well as Teton County Road and Levee and Snake River Sporting Club are working together to get that final permit for long-term usage,” Guzik said.
What that long-term usage looks like has yet to be determined. Guzik explained that it’s not about opening or closing that access point but more about usage.
“Really it’s more of what kind of use it can be. Is it just residents, is it residents and businesses, is it essential businesses?” Guzik said. Limitations on the size of vehicles and other details are also being discussed.
“We are working hard with all the parties at play and trying to come up with an agreement that works for everyone and is a good and safe solution for those that need to use it,” Guzik said.
Paige Curry, executive director of Astoria Park Conservancy, which temporarily closed following the incident, explained their reopening plans are contingent on the usage permit as well as how the Internal Service District (ISD) Board, the owners of the bridge, chose to move forward.
According to the park’s website, refunds are being issued to all guests that made a reservation, starting with the most immediate reservations first. “When we’re ready to reopen, we will give booking priority to people who had reservations canceled prior to opening reservations to the public.”
The question of reopening is merely a “when” for Astoria. Closures and uncertainty are nothing new for the non-profit. Curry explained that the facility has been forced to close six times since its 2020 opening and highlighted the park’s resiliency due to private philanthropy both large and small.
“Astoria’s future remains bright and we know we will continue to positively impact community health through inspiring experiences in nature for generations to come,” Curry said.
ISD is an elected board, chosen by the residents of Snake River Sporting Club.
ISD has not issued a plan for repairing or rebuilding the bridge at this time. The Snake River Sporting Club General Manager/COO Joe Cranston was not available for comment prior to publishing. Cranston is also an ISD board member.
The bridge was previously damaged by a different semi-truck in June 2021. At that time, Johnny Counts emergency access route was open to the public because conditions were more favorable for safe public access and it was allowed by the Forest Service. The emergency access route historically has been used as an administrative access-only route that has been permitted in specific cases.