ST. GEORGE — Access to the Virgin River is being closed in the area of highway bridge reconstruction being done on the Arizona stretch of Interstate 15. What remains of the human-made oasis known as “Little Jamaica” is also being removed.
The Arizona Department of Transportation announced Monday that work on Virgin River Bridge No.1, which passes between Littlefield and Beaver Dam, Arizona, as a part of I-15, will necessitate the closing of river access starting March 8.
“(ADOT) will be replacing the abutment foundations of the bridge as part of the project,” ADOT stated in a press released. “With heavy equipment and work taking place beneath the bridge, the public will not be able to access or utilize the river or adjacent lands at this location during the construction project.”
The area will be closed off to activities including kayaking, boating, swimming, sightseeing and other recreational use.
Citing public health and safety concerns, ADOT also announced the complete dismantling of the human-made pool known as “Little Jamaica.” The pool, which was formed by several sandbags that had been cemented together, sits within ADOT’s right-of-way for Bridge No. 1 and will be removed.
“As was noted during public involvement for the bridge-replacement project, this site frequently has trash, human waste and other types of waste and lacks water-quality monitoring,” ADOT stated. “It also poses a threat to endangered species and vegetation in the vicinity.”
Dismantling Little Jamaica began in 2018 when ADOT had a work crew reroute a natural spring that people had diverted toward the human-made pool. This created a water fall that filled the pool and then spilled over into the Virgin River below. This also created a slippery surface on the rocks that visitors to the area crossed through the use of ropes they held on to for balance as they climbed into and out of the pool.
When Sgt. John Bottoms, of the Arizona Department of Safety, told St. George News in 2018 of his own experiences with Little Jamaica, his descriptions weren’t the most flattering.
“The times I’ve been there to assist with (law enforcement) calls, the place was a cesspool,” Bottoms said. “There was always debris and trash around there and a lot of used condoms.”
More than once, members of the Arizona DPS were involved in cleaning up the area, which Bottoms also referred to as a site of “over-indulgence” where crimes occurred.
Still, Bottoms noted how popular the site was when it was actually maintained.
“I think there are a lot of people who are going to miss it,” he said.
Access to the Virgin River is expected to remain closed until May 2023.
Overall work on the bridge project is estimated to run $56 million and includes replacing the abutment foundations, piers and the bridge deck of Bridge No. 1. New pavement, pavement markings, guardrail and signage are also included in the project.
Work on the Bridge No. 1 is a part of a series of projects centered on rebuilding and upgrading the highway bridges over the Virgin River that were originally built in the 1970s. The overall reconstruction project began in 2014.
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