Sa-WEET Sixteen for MBT: An Ode to Martin
Happy Sweet 16 to Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail (MBT)! Today is the popular recreation trail’s birthday (July 29, 2000). To celebrate here’s the story of how the MBT’s Martin Bridge got its name.
The Martin Bridge. Do you know where it is? If so, then you’ve been spending some time on Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail (MBT). Now, for those who may not be familiar with where this structure is, it spans above E. 7th Street, near the famous Matchless Mine. And while many regular MBT users may be familiar with where the bridge is, not many folks know how the Martin Bridge got its name.
From the beginning, the decision was rooted in common sense; there were no committees, work sessions, studies or grants involved. Back in 1999, the city and county coffers were pretty slim, so those who had stuck around to serve had to make do. They had to think smarter; do more, with less.
And what better place to think smarter than around a table of hard-working, beer-drinking guys at the legendary Silver Dollar Saloon. One of the regulars at that table was Jim Martin, a former Climax Mine Manager who decided to stick around, seeing Leadville and Lake County through some of its shakier days.
Martin was Leadville’s Mayor for 8 years, from 1983 – 1991; he then went on to serve two terms as Lake County Commissioner from 1992 – 2000. Martin also served on the Board of Education and was very involved with Skyline Little League, as both a board member and umpire during baseball season.
Jim Martin was a hard-core numbers guy. He was known to test people with a series of mathematical equations, to determine their mental prowess. The drill would usually go something like, take the number 6 multiply it by eight, subtract 7, divide by three, now take the square root of that number – and on and on he would go. This mathematical quiz was rambled off at a pretty good pace, and just when you were convinced that Martin himself wasn’t even following the equation, you were challenged to provide the answer. If you were spry enough to keep up with him and come to the same correct answer as Martin’s, then your “street cred,” rose considerably; maybe he’d even throw you a news tidbit.
Local leadership during this time required that same kind of steadfastness. Things were still in a downward spiral, and most public meetings were held to discuss how to shave a bit more off the budget, rather than, what duplicated non-profit’s efforts should get more funding. Back then, it was a bit more “Shark Tank” and a little less “Kumbaya”.
A guy like Jim Martin was up for the job, and he did an incredible service to this community during that time. It was easy to respect his willingness to serve during that bust cycle. He earned it every day as he kept the Environmental Protection Agency on its toes, and away from encroaching any further onto local lands, an act which was slowly choking economic development in Lake County.
He was asked one time if it was harder to be Mayor or Commissioner? Martin retorted, “You know what was the toughest job I ever had in this town? Umpire for the Little League. Those parents were brutal! If they didn’t like a call, they didn’t hold back! They’d swear you up one side and down the other, right in front of the kids!”
During one of these famous beer-drinking work sessions – when Martin was absent – the rest of the guys discussed how they might be able to honor him. It was 1999 and Martin was coming to the end of his political career. While there wasn’t a lot of money in the coffers for some elaborate gesture, surely there was something they could do.
It was during this same time that the Mineral Belt Trail was reaching its completion, planning its Grand Opening on July 29, 2000. Time was of the essence, so operation “Martin Bridge” charged full steam ahead. In the spirit of, just-order-the-signs, it’s-easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission, that MBT crossover was ceremoniously branded The Martin Bridge and the rest is history!
Before he eventually retired to lower elevations for health reasons, Martin often enjoyed the trail, regularly crossing over his namesake. On Friday-night-of-Boom-Days 2015, Jim Martin passed away at the age of 84. It was standing room only at his service. After all, he was a man who built bridges, helping to guide Leadville through some of its more challenging times in recent history. So be sure to give a little salute in his honor when you pass over the Martin Bridge as you take a birthday lap honoring 16 glorious years of the Mineral Belt Trail!
© 2016 Leadville Today