Walkway could get a new life

September 18, 2003 12:00 am

By MIKE MORRIS

A historic wooden walkway that lines a steep downtown Angels Camp street is now suffocated with weeds and littered with broken liquor bottles.

Because this "chicken ladder" — along Hardscrabble Street between Mark Twain and Bush streets — is no longer walkable, many Angels Camp residents and city officials want to see it restored.

Angels Camp City Council members debated the fate of the walkway at their Tuesday meeting. The question at hand was whether the historical landmark, named for resembling the ladder to a chicken coop, should be restored or removed.

But the council heard no support for removal.

"I think it would be a shame to walk away from such a unique piece of our history," Councilman Lee Seaton said.

Councilmen Paul Raggio and Bill Hutchinson echoed Seaton's sentiments.

The chicken ladder was constructed at least a century ago so Hardscrabble residents could walk the street, which has an 8 percent grade. It was rebuilt about 25 years ago.

Linda Rich, a Hardscrabble resident for nearly three years, has tried to clear trash and pull weeds on the path near her white picket fence.

"I'd like to see (the chicken ladder) fixed for its historic value," said the fifth generation Calaveras County resident. "Angels Camp should promote it as a historic landscape."

The city does just that. The chicken ladder is listed as a highlight on Angels Camp's historic walking tour brochure.

"They should restore it," said Emily Stemler, who works at the City of Angels Camp Museum. "Why put it in historic Angels Camp if they're not going to restore it?"

Angels Camp City Administrator Tim Shearer said the city's insurance carrier warned of the ladder's risk four years ago.

However, the council decided not to pursue restoration or destruction then. In May, at Raggio's request, council members visited the narrow, one-way street.