Slide repair underway

slide work for websiteConstruction on Morgan Territory Road got underway on last month to repair the road heavily damaged by a large land-slide during the epic rains in February.  The road will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians until mid-October.  (photo by Tamara Steiner)

Major reconstruction of a portion of Morgan Territory Rd., severely damaged by a landslide in last winter’s epic storms, got underway last month and is expected to take until mid-October to complete. During the work, the road will be closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles.

To repair the damage, the county’s contractor will install retaining walls, one on the upslope and another on the downhill side, each about 10 feet high and 250 feet long. The wall on the upslope will be constructed of concrete lagging painted dark brown to blend with the woods. Cost of the project is $2.9 million and the county expects to recover a substantial part of this from the state’s emergency fund.

When the road closed suddenly Feb. 22, some 900 residents who live south of the slide found themselves stranded, cut off from town. For the first two months, the only way in and out was the “back way”—a 45-minute detour over a single lane, severely storm damaged mountain road to Livermore—or on foot across the slide, lugging groceries and pulling the kids in wagons.

“But it wasn’t all bad,” says Robin Frost, long-time resident. “There was camaraderie. We were all in this together.”

In April, the ground stabilized enough to open a bumpy single lane across the slide.  But, once the repairs started, even that limited access would be cut off.  Without an alternative, the Livermore route was the only way out.

The county looked at possible routes for providing a temporary road during the reconstruction. Morgan Territory is in a valley with steep hills on every side. Every alternative involved crossing multiple private parcels or state park land.

Agreement was eventually reached with more than 20 property owners to use Leon Drive, a private road that connects with a fire trail at the top. The county graded and graveled the fire trail, creating a steep, slippery detour that most residents agree is still better than going through Livermore.

Troy Lee owns Camp Four Paws, a busy dog daycare and boarding kennel on Morgan Territory. While many of her clients are braving the steep detour, the slide has still had a huge impact on her business.

“We made a decision early on that we would stay open,” says Lee. “We didn’t want to lay off any employees and we haven’t.

“We will survive. That’s what savings accounts are for.”