BRISTOL — A patch of land with severe erosion may be threatening a commonly traversed road near Bristol’s town limits.
Mark Mansewicz, who lives near the property, believes the flood of 2017 kickstarted the dangerous erosion along the bank of the St. Joseph River at C.R. 8.
“I was warned about 10 years ago,” he said. “The guy that warned me used to have a big barge and he’d put in the sea walls and piers. He said it was going to give way, and sure enough, it is.”
Looking at the bank from the road, it’s hard to detect any trouble, but Mansewicz said the area has seen as much as 10 feet of erosion since the flooding, bringing the bank dangerously close to the road.
Trees have fallen, and continue to fall, from the bank into the river, and a utility pole appears to be next. There is no riprock to protect the sandy soil along the bank.
“There’s a bend on the river where it’s just going to keep washing out and eroding,” Mansewicz said.
Mansewicz lives next door to the property, and ownership of the site is unclear, he said.
Mansewicz’s home is the last one on the road outside town boundaries, and the “Welcome to Bristol” sign is near the erosion area. The town may own the lot, he said, because town crews mow it regularly.
The town, however, believes the property is outside its jurisdiction, and the issue would need to be resolved by the county’s highway department.
The county is willing to take on the project if the ownership issue can be resolved, according to Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder, but river work can be complicated.
“Working in that river gets to be difficult and can require permitting,” he said.
The county has performed bank stabilization on a section of the river near Ox Bow Park along C.R. 45, he said.
In that case, Yoder said, the erosion wasn’t yet dangerous and the highway department was able to fix it with relative ease. Crews put in riprock, which solved the problem. And along the riverbank, residents have traditionally done the same thing.
For the erosion at C.R. 8, that is not the case.
Because the property is so close to the town’s borders, surveyors will have to determine whose property the erosion is on – county or town – before any further action can take place.
“We haven’t had any complaints about it yet,” said county highway engineer Kent Schumacher.
Now that the county knows about the issue, he said, the highway department will take a look.