bridge grates block homeless to "protect" swallows - Denver FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 15 Apr 1998 19:26:59 -0700 (PDT)


FWD  April 5, 1998  http://www.denverpost.com/news/news2619.htm

.....$53,575 TO INSTALL METAL GRATES to prevent homeless people from
seeking shelter under the Lincoln Street Bridge over Cherry Creek and the
20th Street Bridge over the Platte River.....  .....Grauberger said
blocking vagrants "protects the structures'' and "prevents the homeless
from becoming a nuisance.''  [from article below]


BRIDGE BIRD NETS HARD TO SWALLOW

 By Susan Greene
 Denver Post Staff Writer

April 5 - The chance that migratory cliff swallows might nest under two
Platte River bridges is costing Denver taxpayers $60,000.

City of Denver Public Works officials say the expense for special,
anti-swallow nets provides assurance that the federally protected birds
won't set up housekeeping in construction projects and delay completion
dates by several months.

Auditors chuckled recently when reviewing paperwork for the netting, one of
six modifications that has caused a bridge maintenance contract with
Jalisco International Co. Inc. to nearly double in 1 years. Although
last-minute contract changes aren't unusual, they say this marks the first
time the birds have forced the city into such a steep expenditure.

"Typically you see these orders for bricks and mortar, not for some birds
you've never even heard of,'' City Auditor Don Mares said.

Cliff swallows are common songbirds with chestnut heads, white forehead
patches, blue streaks on their backs, orange rumps and off-white
underparts. They winter in northern Argentina and southern Brazil and
summer throughout the western United States, where they set up colonies of
gourd-shaped mud nests on cliffs and, in urban areas, under highway
culverts and bridges.

Many tend to return to the same spot year after year.

Charles Brown, a University of Tulsa biology professor and expert on cliff
swallows, expects them to begin migrating to greater Denver in mid- to late
April. That's why city officials scrambled in late March to install dozens
of yards of nets beneath two bridges under construction over the South
Platte River, one at Speer Boulevard and a pedestrian bridge being rebuilt
at 16th Street, where the birds have nested in years past.

Like other native songbirds, cliff swallows are protected by the federal
Migratory Bird Act. If they settle in the construction projects, "their
nests may not be disturbed until they are abandoned in the fall,'' Public
Works Manager Bruce Baumgartner wrote in a city memo. That, he said, could
delay completion of the bridges by several months.

City officials can't be sure the swallows would have chosen those specific
bridges for their nests this year, but they want to play it safe.

"It's just one of those expenses,'' said Larry Grauberger, assistant
director for construction with the city engineer's office. Brown and
federal wildlife officials lauded Denver's foresight.

"It's the right thing to do,'' said Kelly Perez, a specialist with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service's Migratory Bird Permit office in Lakewood. "If
you disrupt a nesting colony, you're going to impact a lot of birds.''

Crews with Jalisco International - one of the city's bridge contractors -
installed 3,300 square yards of netting under the bridges March 25 and 26.
The $60,000 job is the sixth change to the original, $282,345 contract,
bringing the latest total to $492,707.

Other changes include $53,575 to install metal grates to prevent homeless
people from seeking shelter under the Lincoln Street Bridge over Cherry
Creek and the 20th Street Bridge over the Platte River.

Grauberger said blocking vagrants "protects the structures'' and "prevents
the homeless from becoming a nuisance.''

Another $20,391 in tax dollars went to replace a waterproof coating on the
Logan Street bridge over Cherry Creek that was inadvertently removed by
roads crews.

Said Grauberger of the accident: "It's just something that wasn't
coordinated very well.

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