It was the perfect morning to open a bridge, and Rancho Murieta Association Maintenance Manager Rod Hart was the man of the moment, designated by RMA President Jack Cooper to do the honors Thursday.
RMA Director Mel Standart and Country Club General Manager Bob Johnson stopped to chat on the bridge in a club golf cart.
Hart, with a small crowd gathered on the north side of the bridge, just off the first green, unlocked the padlock and pulled aside the fencing that has kept the bridge closed since construction was completed months ago.
After the north entrance was open, the crowd of RMA, Community Services District and Country Club officials walked across the bridge to open the south entrance. Along the way Hart answered questions about the bridge, explaining that it's made of pressure-treated Douglas fir timbers, which are four times stronger than redwood. Hart relayed the bridge fabricator's claim that it's the longest wood bridge in the state, and one of the longest in the country.
"It's a bridge over peaceful waters," said the jubilant Cooper as the bridge crossers remarked about the still, clear water a surprising distance below. The other surprise was how shallow the crystalline water looked.
Country Club President Vince Lepera said he'd heard a lot of opposition to the bridge from his neighbors in the Fairways, where the north end of bridge is located, and he'd thought it was unfortunate an access route to the Yellow Bridge couldn't have been worked out years ago. But, unlike the Yellow Bridge's location next to the highway, "This is really like being in nature. It's so peaceful," he noted, looking at the river vistas surrounding the bridge. "The ambiance really fits Rancho Murieta."
Once on the south side of the bridge, the officials remarked on the sign that directs golf carts and bicycles to the right. This is a temporary measure until an access through the Riverview subdivision is available.
Since the temporary route will take users on the cart path route between the first and second holes of the South Course, people will have to be careful to stay out of harm's way by observing the golfers, warned RMA General Manager David Stiffler. "Pull over to the side and wait" until they hit the ball, he advised, and stay on the path and off the course.
Dan Herrmann of RMA Maintenance got started on the trail at Riverview while the bridge opening was going on.
The arrangement won't be for long. Stiffler said the easement agreement has been reached with developer Reynen & Bardis and grading will begin on the trail through Riverview next week. Hart said the work has been scheduled with the Operating Engineers training center and RMA Maintenance is already preparing the Riverview Park area by mowing, moving rocks and removing shrubs.
While the group discussed probable dates this month for a community celebration, at least one resident felt Thursday's opening couldn't have come at a better time. Beth Buderus crossed the bridge in her golf cart shortly after it opened to deliver beauty products to her customers on the South. She had intended to make the deliveries Wednesday, but couldn't because her car had a flat.
And wouldn't you know it? She passed another cart on the bridge coming in the opposite direction.