The 82-year-old Dewey Bridge over the Colorado River, though still serviceable, is aging and needs some help and preservation to continue into the next century, says the Grand County Historical Commission, which is raising funds to do just that.

A modern highway span replaced the old white Dewey suspension bridge 10 years ago, but the structure remains a popular attraction along U-128, a state scenic byway, about 32 miles northeast of Moab and continues to carry pedestrian and bicycle traffic, said Dale Irish, the commission's president. It is part of Kokopelli's Trail, a 140-mile mountain bike path link-ing Utah and Colorado.Its relative antiquity is important to the people of Grand County, said Bette Stanton of Moab. "It's one of the few old structures we have, for this wasn't a very stable community in the beginning," she said. "And this bridge is so picturesque and has so much history with it."

Irish said the county obtained a $25,000 preservation grant from the state and has been raising a second $25,000 to match it. With that money the commission hopes to obtain bids and begin work on structural repairs by next spring. "Some of the wood frames are rotted, broken and cracked," he said. "A lot of bolts are missing or loose, and there are a couple, three holes in the deck." Those problems will get attention first.

The commission then hopes to raise another $50,000 next year in grants and donations for a second phase of work, including removing rust from the bridge's steel superstructure and repainting it, Irish said.

The old Dewey Bridge was dedicated in 1916 and served as a link between Moab and territories to the east, including Grand Junction, Colo., until 1988. Simply designed with a deck suspended by cables between towers on either side of the Colorado River, the bridge was known as the longest suspension bridge in Utah and the state's second-longest clear-span bridge, Irish said.

The bridge was supposed to be 10 feet wide, but the builders apparently ran low on money and in a cost-saving move constructed it only eight feet wide, Irish said. "That was probably wide enough for wagons," he added - and for one-way traffic for motorists for most of the 20th century.

Although there are scattered ranches in the area, and a planned new subdivision on the north side of the river today, at one time a thriving little community, including a school, could be found at Dewey, Irish said. New grazing regulations 50 or 60 years ago took away the residents' ability to raise even a few cows and sheep on public land "and they had to move out," he said. "That was their cash crop, three, four, maybe five cows gave them money for staples, clothing and things like that."

The bridge is basically sound and, with a little restoration work, "will last a lot of years to come," Irish said.

Those interested in making donations can send them to the Grand County Historical Commission in care of First Security Bank, P.O. Box 99, Moab, UT 84532. Checks should be payable to the Grand County Historical Commission.