Bridging our past with the future by preserving our heritage in the present.
Author: Bridgehunter's Chronicles
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is a column produced by the author that focuses on historic bridges both in the USA as well as in Europe that tourists should visit before they are replaced or removed. Each bridge is profiled with the goal that people are aware of its existence and can take action regarding saving them. The Chronicles also provides a tour of some of the regions in both of the aforementioned areas, where there is a dense number of historic bridges that exist, with a goal of encouraging tourists to visit these areas and encourage others to add the place to their travel itineraries. And finally, the Chronicles provides readers with news stories of historic bridge preservation efforts, events involving historic bridge (preservation)- such as the Historic Bridge Conference, bridge symposiums, etc., discussion about historic bridges, preservation and education about them, and literary work on historic bridges that were released to the public and the public should read about.
This pic was taken as the cyclist was crossing the Zellstoff Bridge, spanning the Zwickau Mulde River north of the city of Zwickau in the German state of Saxony. This bridge used to be a railroad crossing taking the line to one of the mines nearby. Following its shutdown during the Reunification process, the bridge sat abandoned and it was only when the threat of removal was imminent in 2007 that locals fought and saved the bridge. It was renovated the following year and again this past year in 2017. Today, it continues to function as a crossing for bikers and hikers. This pic was taken in 2016.
Bridge climbing is like rock climbing in a way. People engaging in this hobby must have nerves of steel to scale the geometrical structures that shape the city skyline. They are mostly straight or circular (or both) and not uneven. Bridge climbing can be an individual or a family affair, pending on the bridge and the possibilities available. Training is possible on the spot whereas with rock climbing, training is needed before embarking on the dangerous journey. Bridges where climbing is possible include the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Harbour Bridge in Sydney and this bridge in Brisbane. In this blog, Travel Everywhere- Earn Anywhere, this British couple embarked on this journey and lived to tell it. Here’s an excerpt which will lead to the link which you can open for details on the dos, don’ts and hows to doing this and ways to become a successful adventurer in this aspect. Perhaps you can try one with a bridge. But before you do, read the article. Enjoy! 🙂
The chips are falling into place. State representatives have been invited. Examples of restored historic bridges being restored are being collected, together with the costs. The motivation and the ideas towards saving the bridge is running sky-high. And since yesterday, the signatures on the petition to save the bridge and facebook likes are coming in like a wave of water rushing with great intensity down the canal. 🙂
This was the mentality of the committee as we met at the Rechenhaus Restaurant next to the Bockau Arch Bridge last night (on 17 April). Since our first meeting a month and a half ago (and with it, the start of this blog series), members have been calling around to get the people involved and join in the debate to save the bridge. And despite some missing ingredients, we already have a full set of people willing to sit down and discuss ways to save the bridge. And with that, here is what we know:
On 24th April at 11:00am, we will meet at the Bockau Arch Bridge (in case of bad weather- at Schneeberger Strasse 1 in Albernau). There we will have the following people on hand to discuss about the future of the bridge:
State representatives of Saxony:
Stephan Hösl (Christian Democrats)
Luise Neuhaus-Wartenberg (Linke- Socialist Party)
Karin Wilke (Alternative for Germany- Far right party)
Ulrike Kahl (The Green Party)
Members of the Ministries of Business and Transportation, plus Interior, The Mayor of Bockau- Siegrid Baumann.
The list is not completed as we’re looking at inviting someone from the Ministry for Cultural Heritage of Saxony, a representative from the Social Democratic Party and the Free Liberal Party, regional bike organizations, the mayors of Zschorlau, Aue and Schneeberg, and especially experts involved with restoring historic bridges in Saxony. And we have enough examples to go around.
We have collected many examples of bridges that are being restored or are planned to be restored in Saxony, with some cost figures that dwarf the increasing cost for building the new bridge on a new alignment. Already mentioned in an article is the reconstruction of the Hirschgraben (or as some call it Hirschgrund) Bridge in Glauchau at a cost of 1.4 Million Euros, we also have a new project that will be launched this summer with the unique Ratzkotz Arch Bridge near Görlitz (at 2.4 million Euros) and the Eger Bridge near Reichenbach for 2.5 million Euros. Another bridge in the vicinity of Marienberg at Oberlochmühle is being considered for renovation to become a rails-to-trails crossing after sitting idle for over four decades. All these examples are stone arches about the same length as the Bockau Arch Bridge. We’re hoping that at least one of the project representatives can join to talk about the funding for the project. Also wishful thinking is a film documentary about the bridge similar to a couple examples, including the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine. But we’ll have to wait and see if this is even possible, given the time and cost for producing even a 3-5 minute segment.
Bockau Arch Bridge as Cultural Heritage Site
What I did learn about the bridge is that despite the missing information about the bridge builder for the stone arch structure, the bridge is listed as a German Cultural Heritage site on the state level. That means state funding is available to restore the bridge if they wish to do that. In order to remove the heritage status to allow for the removal of the structure, a form has to be filled out describing in full detail why the historic bridge should be torn down. Administrative costs in the hundreds and thousands are imposed and the process could take a couple years to complete. While claims that the deal to tear down the bridge once the new structure is open between the Community of Bockau and the construction firms responsible, is complete, it doesn’t mean that there is no last-minute deal to save it. No form to take the bridge off the heritage list has been submitted, and it sounds as if nothing will happen to the bridge as long as we have a plan to save the structure and find ways to finance it. Surprising and shocking is that an environmental and cultural impact survey was not carried out to determine the after-effects of replacing the historic bridge. Already rock cliffs are being blasted to make way for the new road and bridge, which is changing the landscape bit by bit and explains the reason behind the closure of the bike trail within a 4-kilometer radius of the bridge.
The Inconvenient Truth
Still, the logic behind the closure of the stone arch bridge is still a mystery. As mentioned earlier, since the closure of the bridge, the restaurant has lost over 60% of its customers. We were the only customers at the restaurant this evening. Yet the owner has had some surprises. They included Syrian refugees visiting the bridge and the restaurant, a large group of bikers having to stop at the restaurant to get directions to get across the bridge, and several people circumventing the fences just to cross the bridge. It really shows how very inconvenient the bridge closure has been. I will be videotaping the long detour to show how much time is needed to make the 15 kilometer detour to be posted on the facebook page. The planning was just simply way too poor. Already the price for the new bridge has skyrocketed from 3 million to 12.5 million Euros. When the new bridge opens, it will be another example of money well-wasted, just like the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport project.
And so to sum up our meeting, the pieces of the puzzle are just about in place for the meeting on the 24th of April. What is needed are a few experts for bridge restoration, a couple representatives who can vouch for saving the bridge, and lastly some more history lessons on how the bridge is built. The third one I’m working on and should have it ready in time for the meeting. But above all, we need as many signatures and likes on our page to show our guests that we care about the bridge, even from abroad, and that when there is a will to save the bridge, there is a way to do it- private or public.
And with that, we need your help:
We need 2000 Likes and 2000 Signatures between now and the 24th of April to be presented to the state representatives. Click hereto sign the petition to save the bridge. Click here to like our page and get the latest on our project to save the bridge. Help us convert the bridge into an important connection for bikers and pedestrians. One can imagine the old bridge and the new one standing side-by-side. You can as well.
Some more articles from the Chronicles will be included including politics and saving a historic bridge as well as the German Cultural Heritage Laws, comparing it with the US. But your likes and signatures will make a big difference.
A few years ago, a fellow historian named Satolli Glasmeyer came up with an interesting concept that was short and sweet and would give the viewers a short overview of the historic places on video- not to mention an incentive to visit them on their next road trip. History in Your Own Backyard focuses on hidden treasures- past and present- that have historic character based on the author’s visit(s). The videos are between five and 15 minutes pending on topic and most of the places profiled in the videos are located in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. While some examples will show up as guest column for the Chronicles, you can find the library of videos either on their website here or via youtube.
This HYB example takes us back to an old friend that has been gone for quite some time. The Cedar Grove Bridge once spanned the Whitewater River in Franklin County, Indiana. A product of the Indiana Bridge Company of Muncie, this 2-span Camelback through truss bridge, built in 1914 was the focus of one of the filmed documentaries that was done in its memory. This film was released on 22 February, 2016, five days after the structure was demolished after having sat abandoned for 17 years. Attempts to save it through fundraisers and other policies failed. Here is the video of the bridge’s history, which includes the demolition.
A slideshow of the bridge’s history follows as well:
Two Goltzsch River Bridges two kilometers from each other to be replaced with modern structures due to age and liability.
AUERBACH (VOGTLAND), SAXONY (GERMANY)- There are three ways of justifying the demolition of a historic Bridge, regardless of design and age. The first, as we are seeing with the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine, is the sugar-coating of the public in believing that the new Bridge will last 100 years, never Need maintenance and will look nicer. 99% of the time are These Facts rather fake when fact-checking their Arguments. However, the second and third are just as common as the first, and are being practiced on a pair of bridges west of Schneeberg in the Vogtland Region of the German state of Saxony. One is negligence but to a Point where Rehabilitation is next to impossible because of exorbitant costs. This is the reason behind the demolition and replacement of the Riss Bridge (Rißbrücke) in Rodewisch. The third is the argument that the Bridge can no longer carry traffic, even if it was rehabilitated. This is the case with the Schulstrassebrücke in Auerbach. Both bridges span the River Göltzsch, which flows to the longest stone arch bridge in the world, the Göltzschtalbrücke near Netzschkau and flows parallel to the main Highway, B-169. Both bridges are two kilometers away from each other. And two bridges are the subject of the Chronicles’ Newsflyer article.
RISSBRUECKE (RISS BRIDGE) IN RODEWISCH
This bridge carries Park Street and cuts through the city park enroute to a church and Stone arch Bridge, 400 meters to the east. It can be seen from the main highway on the west bank. This 40 meter long closed spandrel arch bridge is at least 90 years old, but has been the subject of neglect, for spalling cracks on its abutments peeling on ist facade have weakened the structure to a point where it has been closed to all but pedestrians and cyclists for many years. Furthermore, the original railings have deteriorated to a point where concrete parts are falling into the river and the metal endoskeleton has appeared on 80% of the railings. Attempts to catch the falling debris using a net has been proven futile. In September, residents voted unanimously to replace the structure with a modern one, which will be a cable-stayed bridge with leaning towers. Since the start of April, workers have cleared away trees and bushes to get to the Bridge. It is scheduled to be demolished beginning in June, and the new structure will be open to traffic by the beginning of 2019. While lack of funding during the East German period may have played a role in allowing the bridge to fall apart, that funding had not been available to restore this bridge since 1990 and it has raised the question of priority between the bridge and other places that have been restored in and around Rodewisch. Sadly this bridge has gotten the wrong end of the stick and for those wishing for a new modern structure, their wish will come true soon.
SCHOOL STREET BRIDGE (SCHULSTRASSEBRÜCKE) IN AUERBACH: Since Easter, work has started to remove this unique brick arch Bridge connecting the City Center with the main Highway. The bridge was built in the late 1890s using granite mined from the Ore Mountains and had been rehabilitated just after the Fall of the Wall. Despite that, the 20-meter long structure is too narrow and light for trucks and therefore, the bridge will be replaced. The replacement structure will be twice the width of the 13-meter Bridge and will include turning lanes more convenient for the growing traffic. Yet questions remain about the justification of replacing the bridge because of the traffic going through the City Center already. Plus the arch structure appeared in great shape at the time of the author’s visit. Nevertheless People will suffer from the inconvenience for the next half year as the old will come out in favor of the new which will be met with mixed results come time of ist opening in the fall.
Beginning this month, the Chronicles will present a pic of the week, where the author will have a display of the finest photos of historic bridges that were photographed and posted either on Facebook, Instagram or even Flickr. They will be posted every Friday as the weekends are made for bridge photography, old and new, year round.
The first pic of the week is a historic stone arch bridge, located in the middle of a lake in the town of Rodewisch in western Saxony in Germany. Unique is that there is a small castle in the middle of the Island where the bridge connects it with the rest of the park complex. The weather was perfect for this photo-op.
Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge
BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.
Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here: https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge
Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.
During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage. A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:
Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.
The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.
The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.