Paper Mill/Marshall Bridge: Rising from the Ashes- An Interview with Julie Bowers

 

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What is considered the impossible became the impossible. David never gave up on the notion of beating Goliath until it actually happened. Some heavily favorites can fall to the underdogs. All it takes is patience, preserverence, passion and persistence- the four Ps to success. Five if you want to include politics.

For Julie Bowers and the crew at Workin Bridges, those five Ps were needed plus some personnel with expertise and just as much of the five Ps to bring a bowstring arch bridge back from the rubble, resurrect the structure, restore it to its former glory and now, it’s being reused for recreation. That is the story behind the history of the Marshall Bostring Arch Bridge located now at the Auburn Heights Preserve in Delaware. It has gone by many names, but two come out as the most commonly used aside from its official name: the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge when it was in Iowa, and most recently, Paper Mills Bridge. The bridge has come a long way after it was destroyed by flooding in August 2009 at its original location in Poweshiek County, spanning the Skunk River. After it was pulled from the river and stored, efforts were undertaken to restore it, which included a long journey to its new home in Yorklyn, Delaware. The Odyssey came with a lot of challenges, as you will see in the interview I did with Julie Bowers before Christmas.  I wanted to find out how the 5 Ps played a role in bringing the bowstring arch bridge that is like a family to her and the crew who restored it back to life. Here’s how the story happened. Enjoy! 🙂

 

1. Tell us briefly about yourself and your role in restoring historic bridges. I’ve been doing this for ten years. I knew nothing about bridges or restoration or bureaucratic politics when our bridge was lost to the N. Skunk River. I did have a background in construction, architecture and databases and used that as a base to build on. I don’t give up and have been called stubborn. We could not do this without a lot of sacrifice by everyone that travels to save a bridge but mostly we couldn’t do it without Bach Steel and Nels Raynor and our board of directors, both current and past.

 

 

  1. In your opinion, how special is the Paper Mill Bridge (PMB) in terms of its history and personal association with it?

It was erected in 1883, built by the King Iron Bridge Company. We think it is from around 1878 production design based on the lacing in the vertical outriggers and the castings. The bridge of many names (Skunk River Bridge, Humpback Bridge, McDowell for a minute then McIntyre, then Paper Mill) now the Marshall Family Bridge, is the heart of the Auburn Heights Preserve in Yorklyn, Delaware. A public / private partnership to clean up zinc laden habitat, to rebuild old warehouses including the Paper Mill and to build a trail system using historic bridges. If we had not had this project we would not have saved our bridge. It was a lot more work after falling in the river but it will live on.

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  1. Prior to its relocation from Iowa to Delaware, the PMB was once known as the McIntyre Bridge. Tell us about the bridge in its original location.

The bridge was located on River Road over the N. Skunk River in SE Poweshiek County. Our family had ties to the area and found ourselves there often for fall and winter picnics. When I returned to Iowa in 2001, we restarted those picnics. It fit it’s location perfectly and was safely in a park until flooding pushed it off it’s piers.

 

  1. In 2010, floodwaters swept the bridge off its foundations and caused severe damage. Tell us more about it and how it influenced your decision to restore the bridge.

My daughter and I found the bridge on the Sunday following Friday the 13th. We heard later the county crews were pulling trees up river that were compromising a concrete span. They came on down river and the roots entangled with the cable railing and pushed the span off the piers. It was our bridge, my family had been tied to that place for generations and I got the call. What are you going to do? We started educating ourselves, making calls, and figuring out our options. Turns out, all we needed was Bach Steel at that time, before the bridge went down.

 

  1. What was the plan for restoring the McIntyre Bridge in its original place and why did it fail?

It was just decisions that let us keep trying to figure out how much it cost and how to find the funds. There were setbacks, grant rejections, a lot of them, but we persevered. Our first plan was research, we were referred to Vern Mesler and Nathan Holth and had them  come to Iowa. We raised $3000 for that consult.  The bridge was still up at that point. When the bridge fell we were told about Nels Raynor and we proceeded with Nels to pull the bridge from the river and to work with us on this bridge and others. My daughter, Laran Bowers is on the board now, has been for years and that makes sense. She was the one that found the bridge. Jaydine Good rounds out the board and we have about 5 advisors that we utilize all the time for their perspectives. We wrote grants to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), getting our County involved.

They subsequently reneged on their commitment to a TAP grant and we knew grants would never be our solution. When the county commissioners took back their backing, we knew that the solution was not going to be there and started looking. Flooding in August of 2009 changed everything from restoration plans to salvage, then restoration. No one ever decided not to save the bridge, it was always our number 1 priority through all of our efforts. We’ve educated a lot of folks on knowing the project before deciding to continue or not. We always knew our project costs from the beginning.

 

 Author’s Note: TAP stands for Transportation Alternative Program which focuses mainly on bridge rehabilitation/restoration instead of replacement.

 

6.  What happened to the McIntyre Bridge afterwards?

It went to Bach Steel for storage while we tried raising funds. Then we brought it back to Iowa because SHPO said we had moved the bridge out of Iowa. Then SHPO delisted the bridge because it was moved off it’s piers, they didn’t believe our scope and estimate, and the bridge was stored while we worked on other projects, became a contractor and tried earning funds rather than asking for funds.

 

Author’s Note: The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s along with two dozen other bowstring arch bridges in Iowa. Because of its significance, grants were available to restore the bridge but only at its original location. The bridge can be delisted if it’s either altered beyond historic recognition, destroyed by natural disaster or demolition or moved to another location. Some exceptions do apply.

 

7. How and when did the opportunity to relocate and restore the McIntyre Bridge come about?

Nels Raynor and I worked with Project PATH at PennDOT with Kara Russell and Preservation Pennsylvania, providing scope and estimates on several bridges. Without that information it is very hard to sell a bridge in their program. That lead to a call from DNREC. McIntyre Bridge was certainly our choice although Nels would have preferred others that might not have had as much damage. It was a lot of work and the care that Derek and Lee and their crew put into the restoration was immense. There was twisting along the box chord but if you look close today, you will see very little distortion.

More on PATH: https://path.penndot.gov/

 

8. How was the bridge reconstructed?

Very carefully. It’s a bridge that will take pedestrians and we care. This is a bowstring truss. The eye-bars are connected with castings and pins to make the length  of the bridge and the verticals hit the eye-bars, connected with cast parts. The trusses were laid opposite to each other, so that they could be picked up nearly in place and then the lateral connections were put in. Miles of angle were welded together to make the vertical “star iron / cruciform posts that were beyond repair. This is what we call in-kind restoration which means if we have to recreate parts we do that.  The trusses required mending, heat straightening, pack rust removal and it took a long time to essentially rebuild our bridge. Nels did that for us because he said he would.

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9. Who were the actors involved in the restoration?

There were no actors involved. It took the expertise of Nels Raynor at Bach Steel along with his crew over years. It also took finding James Schiffer, P.E. Now he does some work for others but the original team of Workin Bridges was Nels, Jim and I. Derek and Lee Pung worked the most on the bridge, along with Nels son Brock and others that have learned iron working arts during this project.

10. What other factors led to the success in restoring the bridge?

Perseverance, not patience, and finding other work along the way, not just waiting around for grants and then deciding grants and donations aren’t enough. We started working the construction angle to have the funds to pay for overhead while some grants were pursued. Remember, you can’t do anything after the grant goes in. 6 months to wait for denial is no fun. As we went along we found more and more opportunities and we know what failure looks like. The board, under the direction of my father Dick Bowers, Gary Sanders, Diane Roth, Laran Bowers and now Jaydine Good have kept me pursuing the best outcome for our bridge and helping other people with their bridges.

 

11.  The bridge was renamed Paper Mill Bridge and later Marshall? Why was that? 

The Marshall Family owned the Paper Mill and the Mansion and a collection of vintage Stanley Steemers and other collectible vehicles. They donated this to the state parks system and DNREC wanted to honor the family by naming the bowstring after them. Marshall Family Bridge was dedicated last year while Mr. Marshall could be there.

 

12.  Paper Mill Bridge is now in Delaware, but there is talk of adding some bridges, a couple from Pennsylvania. Can you elaborate further on this?

Part of Project PATH was a pony truss bridge for sale that we added to the complement of bridges from York County, PA. The project criteria were to find bridges with different builders, types and ages from different states to complement the mills being restored. That bridge, now called Farm Lane, is a pony truss that we modified for strength and width with girders. We also widened it to allow for a pedestrian lane, and engineered it for vehicular traffic with a moveable railing if emergency or agricultural vehicles need to cross. Martin Road will become Snuff Mill. A pratt truss from Michigan has been restored and is being painted, awaiting installation at NVF.  Another large truss, the Portland Water Works bridge is in storage in Delaware for future installation after we purchased and transported it across country two years ago.

 

 13.     How would you theme the project, Saving the Paper Mill Bridge either as a title or in one sentence? The Skunk River Bridge Story – 1883 to present

 

14.   What future bridge restoration projects do you have on the agenda, especially the bowstring arch bridge, like the Paper Mill?

We are working on Watts Mill Road Bridge, a rare continuous pony truss, we have tried to take on Aetnaville Bridge in Wheeling as a restoration project knowing that $2.5 million could be useful for preservation. We saved the Springfield Des-Arc bridge in a new park, that was another bowstring. I think we are instrumental in Pennsylvania and Ohio utilizing Bach Steel to save bowstrings now. If they are the Kings of Kings, we know where that started. Any that we can find now will go into the “Bridge in a Box” sales program that we are developing. Of course we expanded on the Old Richardsville Bridge and are hopeful that the engineers will be required to work with us on the restoration needs. We found little to fix but the Kentucky Cabinet likes spending funds on local certified engineers, lots of money. We got the process started to showcase that it was much older and it will be preserved as a vehicular bridge. That took historical research from the bridge hunting community which was great to dial in the history that negated the NPS dates for NRHP.

 

 15. What words of advice would you give to those who are pursuing preserving and reusing a historic bridge, based on your personal experiences with this bridge?

It is always political. Find the economic benefits for the bridge to the local community. You can’t assume that they will take it on like Beaver County did with Watts Mill Road Bridge after it is reset. Engineers estimates are overly high so get another opinion. Engineers are asked specific questions by their clients that they answer – their answers don’t always look at preservation. For instance, the engineers estimate for Broadway Bridge in Frankfort assumes putting concrete back on it and doesn’t even consider planks or an engineered decking system. Some DOTS are really working hard at finding solutions, but we have to become competitive in selling a “Bridge in a Box – by Bach”  if we want to be competitive with those selling welded steel spans. Convincing and branding a membership driven “Workin'” non profit would create funds annually to help save bridges and other structures. We’ve looked into many ideas, some have merit, some do not. For now we do site visits that give real costs for restoration so that our clients can have enough information for good decisions to be made. We will be crafting more stories on video and perhaps a book on the McIntyre – we have footage of my father and other locals when we first started. We also have content on a lot of site visits that we will start to analyze and put out as well. Having a wonderful board that won’t let you give up even in the face of struggles is the secret. There will be struggles and set backs. Engineers want to build new bridges and cities don’t want the risks of old ones. We try to mitigate the risks.

It’s hard. We’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons as we pursued this. No good deed ever goes unpunished but there are a lot of great people and wonderful stories across the US. We saved our bridge but it took a lot out of all of us and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted but it was the best outcome for the bridge. Can’t wait to walk it again soon.

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Epilog: The Paper Mill/ Marshall Bridge has received a lot of national and international recognition after its reconstruction and re-erecting at its new home in Delaware, including the 2018 Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Bridge of the Year, edging out the Blackfriar’s Bridge in Canada, whose design is similar to this bridge. While Blackfriar’s still retains the role of being the world’s longest of its kind, this bridge will definitely go down in the history books as one which was resurrected after a tragedy and is now being used again after years of hard work and lots of expertise. It sets the foundation for other historic bridge restorations that will come in the new decade, for they are becoming more important to save for future generations as the numbers dwindle due to progress and environmental disasters that are partly due to that progress. Progress is not welcomed unless we see some advantages in these. And as we learned this year with Greta Thunberg’s world tour, the environment will indeed be priority number one in our future plans for making things better. This is one of the projects that will benefit many.

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Newsflyer: 9 September, 2019

 

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Click here to listen to the Podcast. The links and photos of the bridges in detail are below:

 

Links:

Historic Staffeler Bridge in Limburg to be replaced. Old bridge to be repurposed for recreational use:

https://www.fnp.de/lokales/limburg-weilburg/limburg-hessen-staffeler-bruecke-soll-bleiben-12947468.html

 

Gänsetorbrücke spanning the River Danube at Ulm. Photo taken by AHert [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Historic Gänsetorbrücke in Ulm/ Neu-Ulm to be torn down and replaced after losing its historic status:

https://www.swp.de/suedwesten/staedte/ulm/gaenstorbruecke-denkmalschutz-ist-vom-tisch-33019623.html

The Bridges of Ulm: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/the-bridges-of-ulm-germany/

Ulrich Finsterwalder Biography: https://www.b-tu.de/great-engineers-lexikon/ingenieure/finsterwalder-ulrich-1897-1988

King William Road with the Towers of the Bridge in the Background. Photo taken by Adam J.W.C (wikiCommons)

Historic King William Bridge in Adelaide, Australia to either close or be replaced by 2030:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-04/king-william-road-adelaide-bridge-might-need-to-be-replaced/11476978

 

Historic Bridge Stones stolen by vandals at historic bridge in Yorkshire. Police investigating:

https://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/crime/yorkshire-stone-stolen-from-200-year-old-grade-1-listed-bridge-at-ferrybridge-1-9969320

Hammersmith Bridge in London. Source: “Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0”

Historic Hammersmith Bridge in London to be Rehabilitated. Closed for three years.

https://www.taxi-point.co.uk/single-post/2019/09/03/Hammersmith-Bridge-repair-work-starts-and-expected-to-last-THREE-YEARS

Mangaweka Bridge in New Zealand spared demolition- will remain as a pedestrian/ bike crossing:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/the-country/news/article.cfm?c_id=16&objectid=12264113

 

Brunel’s historic bridge in Bristol celebrating its birthday milestone (not the suspension bridge though):

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/whats-on/huge-birthday-celebrations-brunels-bridge-3277964

 

And Information on preservation and fundraising efforts (Contact Details included):

https://www.brunelsotherbridge.org.uk/

 

Historic drawbridge in Florida rehabbed and reopened to traffic:

http://bocanewspaper.com/camino-bridge-finally-reopens-after-renovations-28231

Historic bridge in Costa Rica faces unknown future as community mulls at replacement:

https://vozdeguanacaste.com/en/historic-bridge-in-liberia-faces-uncertain-future/

 

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Call to Action to Save the Route 66 Gasconade Bridge

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Photo courtesy of James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- The days of the Gasconade River Bridge, which used to carry US Hwy. 66 near Hezelgreen may be numbered as it faces demolition scheduled for Spring of 2020 unless a new owner can be found.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has placed the 95-year old bridge under a 30-day public review and comment period which is halfway through its time and is scheduled to be completed by July 5th.  The historic bridge was built in 1924 by MODOT and consists of (from west to east) one 8-panel Warren pony truss with alternating verticals, two 8-panel Parker through trusses and one 6-panel Pratt through truss, all totaling a length of 526 feet. The structure is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its design that was in connection with the standardized bridge movement that started in 1910. It is also in connection with Route 66 and its history, as the Highway, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles via Tulsa and Santa Fe was in operation from 1926 until the last segment of the highway was decommissioned in 1979. Interstate 40 had suplanted the stretch of highway where the bridge is located a years earlier.

Currently, the bridge is closed to traffic and a replacement bridge is being built alongside the historic structure, which will carry a frontage road running alongside the interstate once it’s completed next year. The Gasconade Bridge used to carry that road before its closure in 2015.

Attempts to find an owner for the new bridge and restore the structure to its original glory have not been successful due to differences in planning and realization combined with lack of funding for purchase and restoration. Yet the Gasconade Bridge Facebook (click here) has garnered support from over 1200 Followers and many more who are not on the social media scene. There have been rallies and fundraisers lately and a page where you can donate to save the bridge (click here).

Still the clock is ticking and with the resources and options running out, “only a public outcry expressing significant concern and a desire to save the bridge from demolition might help,” according to a statement on the Gasconade Facebook Page. If you would like to help in convincing government officials to save the bridge, here are the contact details you Need to know before you address your support for the bridge:

E-Mail: STIPcomments@modot.mo.gov

Phone: 1-888-275-6636

Mail: Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO. 65102.

Identify the Gasconade River Bridge in Laclede County, MO. Give them your name and where you live and most importantly, why this bridge is important and is worth saving. It must be personal; all letters copied and pasted will not be acceptable.

To provide you with an incentive to convince MODOT, here’s an interview I did with Rich Dinkela about the bridge a few years ago. Click here to view.  A pair of YouTube videos of the bridge can be found below:

If you have any suggestions to help save the bridge or are interested in buying it, please contact the Group on their Facebook page. A link to their website you will find here.

 

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Jenkins Bridge Fundraiser for 23rd March

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Photo taken by Trent Huse

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WHEELERVILLE, MISSOURI- The campaign to save a historic bridge in Missouri has kicked off with a fundraiser. The Jenkins Bridge is a six-panel through truss bridge with M-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. Spanning Flat Creek south of Jenkins in Barry County, this bridge was built in 1909 by the Standard Bridge Company in Omaha and has been a place of great memories by many locals who have used the bridge for swimming/ diving as well as fishing.

The bridge has been closed since 2017 and many locals are working together with officials from Barry County to find a way to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge to traffic. Already at the starting block are the fundraisers that are underway. One of which takes place on Saturday, March 23rd.

A benefit concert, featuring the music group, Homestead Pickers, will take place at the Wheelerville Church beginning at 7:00pm. Join them for an evening of bluegrass, gospel, country music with good ole fashioned humor and entertainment by the group featuring Greg Bailey, Greg Becker, Danny Eakin, and Walt Morrison. All proceeds from the concert will go towards the newly-formed Jenkins Bridge Foundation to file the necessary documents and restoration expenses of the bridge. Aside from restoring the bridge, the group is pursuing a plan to have the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This will be the first of many fundraisers yet to come. More details on other plans for saving the bridge will come soon, as the Chronicles has been doing an e-mail interview with members of the group and will keep you posted on the latest.  If you wish to contribute to the cause of saving and restoring the bridge, you may join the Jenkins Bridge Foundation’s facebook site, which you can click here.

More to come soon.

 

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Hayden Truss Bridge Opens to Traffic

 

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Hayden Bridge on the day of its reopening. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Grand Reopening of the 1882 Whipple Through Truss Bridge after a thorough Rehabilitation.

SPRINGFIELD/ EUGENE, OREGON- Two years after acquiring the bridge and three decades after seeing its last train cross the McKenzie River, the Hayden Truss Bridge is officially open. As many as 40 people attended the grand reopening of the 1882 Whipple through truss bridge yesterday. The bridge was given a makeover by the restoration company, Workin’ Bridges, based in Holt, Michigan. The company, headed by Julie Bowers, purchased the structure in 2016 for the purpose of repurposing it as a pedestrian crossing. The two-year long project included repairs to the truss parts and bridge abutments, the replacement of the bridge decking and lastly, new railings to ensure people can use the bridge without any incident. BACH Steel and ASF Ironworks contributed to repairs and addition of metal to the bridges, including the railings. The cost for the project, according to the bridge’s facebook page, was approximately $100,000; much of which was covered through donations and other fundraising attempts. The last few weeks saw the completion of the rehabilitation being delayed due to snowfall which covered much of Oregon and the West Coast. The grand opening of the bridge saw the snow melt away and the sunshine of opportunity arise for the bridge. With the crossing open to traffic, plans are in the making to create a park using the bridge as its center piece. Wishful thinking is a replica of a historic covered bridge that existed right next to the truss bridge over a century ago. A video on the Covered Bridges of Lane County, which features an excerpt on the two bridge can be seen below:

For Bowers and Co., this is the third major accomplishment in the past three years, behind the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas and the Paper Mill Bridge (formerly McIntyre) in Delaware. Both bridges have garnered accolades in the form of the Ammann Awards and other awards on the state and national levels. And while the Hayden Bridge is in the running for the 2019 Bridgehunter Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, there are several other bridges that will need the service of the bridge restoration experts responsible for this bridge in Oregon. But for now, let’s celebrate this accomplishment, for the people of Springfield definitely deserve their bridge back. 🙂

 

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The Hayden Bridge was built by two Pennsylvania firms: Clark, Reeves and Co of Philadelphia and Phoenixville Bridge and Iron Works of Phoenixville. The 224-foot iron truss bridge features, pinned connections, ornamental decorations on its portal bracings and upper chord, as well as the octagonal Phoenix columns. The bridge used to serve the Weyerhauser Logging Railway but had originally been built in Corrine, Utah as part of a multiple-span crossing. It was relocated to its present spot in 1901 and served rail traffic until 1987. Details on the bridge can be found here. Springfield is located just east of Eugene in Lane County.

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 11: A Flicker of Hope?

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A Tale of Two Bridges: The Stone Arch Bridge in the foreground and the New Bridge in the background. Photo taken on 23 January, 2019

This entry starts with a little bit of irony. The bridge was supposed to be torn down beginning the 14th after the organization Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge was unable to purchase the historic stone arch bridge for 1.7 million Euros- a price that was considered too high and the figure to fictitious to anyone’s liking. Because of a massive snowstorm that brought life in Saxony and parts of Germany to a complete standstill, it was pushed back to the 21st. As of this entry and visit to the bridge on the 23rd, the old stone lady is still standing, with no digger, no crane, no driller, no construction worker. At temperatures well below zero Celsius, it makes the planned demolition impossible. And with more snow and cold in the forecast, chances are very likely that the planned work may not even commence until sometime before Easter.

And that is a long ways away. However, this may be that window of opportunity that we need to turn it around and pull off an upset- a hat trick that is even bigger than the bunny the Ministry of Finance and Transport pulled. Already suggestions from nearby communities in Saxony indicate that people don’t want to part ways from this historic bridge just yet. In the newly consolidated Aue-Bad Schlema for example, there was a proposal to divert funding for renovating a club to go to purchasing and renovating the bridge.  In Beiersfeld near Schwarzenberg, one official suggested at least leaving the bridge piers so that a wooden bridge is put in its place. If covered, it would be a first in over 150 years. And even in Berlin, the petition to save the bridge is being examined as the federal government still owns the bridge and the highway that crosses it, although it’s crossing a new bridge on a new alignment.  So in other words, while the state is dead set on removing the structure, attempts to pull an upset is in the works. And as long as Old Man Winter hovers over the Ore Mountain region, there is still some hope to pull this off.

But how to do it?

We’re looking for any ideas to halt the demolition process. Rallies are possible, for we’ve seen this at many historic bridges in the US and Canada. Concerts as well. There is a possibility to donate to the group Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge. But more importantly, we need some sources and people willing to step in and save a piece of history, one that can be used as a crossing for cyclists and pedestrians, fishermen and photographers, anybody who would rather see a piece of history in tact as is, and not in rubble.  The old bridge has potential, and is stable enough for use. We need some ideas and your help…..

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….as long as the snow is there and no green.

You can send your suggestions here, but you can also contact the following representatives of the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Freunde der Rechenhausbrücke) using the e-mails below:

 

Contact details:

Ulrike Kahl <ulrike.kahl@gruene-erzgebirge.de>,   Hermann Meier hermann.meier50@gmx.de , Günther Eckhardt <geck-art@gmx.de>

Please note that you should have your German language ready for use!

 

To close this, I would like to use a Cree Indian quote but adapted in this context, which goes like this:

Not until the the decking has been taken out

Not until the arches have been removed

Not until the piers are imploded

Not until the materials are hauled away

Not until we realize what we’ve done to our local history

That it cannot be replaced with memories.

We will fight until the last brick leaves Rechenhaus.

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For those who joined the Chronicles via Skrive, you can collect the information on the bridge by clicking here, and then following the updates so that you get a bigger picture and perhaps help.

Check out our facebook page here for photos and other information. You are free to follow and join in the conversation, regardless of language.

 

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 9: Concrete Bed in the River

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AUE (SAXONY), GERMANY-

A first in the Bockau Arch Bridge series since July and a lot has changed since then. It goes beyond the change in the color of the leaves in the fall, as you can see from the picture of the trees flanking the Zwickau Mulde from the old bridge.

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It goes beyond the fact that workers have poured the concrete on the new structure built adjacent to the old bridge. This was done in August and according to latest news from the Chemnitz Free Press, the new B-283 Bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic by Christmas, thus ending the detour of Highway B-283 between Aue and Eibenstock in the western part of the Ore Mountains, which has until now been rerouted through Zschorlau and Schneeberg.

It has to do with a finding that was discovered during our most recent visit to the bridge and our Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge Association Meeting on October 9th, something very unpleasant and will most certainly cause legal action because of the violations committed. Despite many headaches trying to download this clip from my camera, this 5-minute film tells all, even without the commentary in English…..

And after crossing the old bridge to get to the Bockau side of the span, we could see the “Schandfleck” in detail. A total “Schande” (shame) because of several reasons!

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According to several sources, the old bridge is supposed to remain in place until it is demolished and removed in the spring in 2019 with a pair of very important exceptions:

1. Since the bridge is still protected by the Denkmalschutzgesetz (German Culture Heritage Law), documentation of the structure will need to be carried out before its removal, which includes ist history, description and historical significance to the Region. If following the Guidelines that exist in the USA, that process could take 1-2 years to complete.

2. The Investigative Committee (Ausschuss), located in the state parliament in Dresden, which took on the petition to save the bridge back in March, has yet to decide on the bridge’s fate. At the present time, the association has three possible suitors that are willing to take ownership of the bridge once the new B-283 Bridge is completed. If Dresden says yes to the proposal, then the association has until March to name the suitor willing to take over ownership of the old bridge. If not, then the green light will have been given to proceed with the removal.

3. Even if Dresden says no, a copy of the Petition was forwarded to Berlin; specifically the Deutschen Bundestag (German Parliament) and the  Deutsches Nationalkomitee für Denkmalschutz (Geman National Committee for Cultural Heritage), for the bridge carries a federal highway and if therefore responsible for the ownership of the bridge, which is still protected by the Cultural Heritage Laws (Denkmalschutzgesetz). That Petition has been accepted and the bridge is being considered for a program to protect places of interest, thus providing funding for restoring and repurposing the bridge.

Having the concrete bed in the river, according to multiple choices may have violated these agreements and then some, for the Zwickau Mulde is protected by several natural preserve laws on both the state and federal levels. With the concrete bed in the water and despite the two pipes running underneath, it will have the potential to hinder the flow of fish flowing downstream, which could cause unrest from some of the local fisheries and fishing clubs along the river.  Despite the need for having the bed there for the eventual removal of the old bridge, having the bed there is too early and could possibly cause some violations that could result in some legal actions.  A gallery with pictures taken by the author will provide you with some Details.

Photo Gallery:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/X5xVUssmUquNarJT8

To summarize, the old bridge is still standing and can be crossed despite being partially blocked off. Yet the concrete bed indicates that workers want to go ahead and demolish the bridge before Christmas. The new bridge is almost completed and will open between November and December. The fate of the old bridge falls in the hands of both Berlin and Dresden, yet as the bridge is the ownerhship of the federal government, Berlin will have a say, yet if and how the old bridge can be saved is still open. There are interested parties in owning the bridge but the group cannot push forward until the government has a say in the whole debacle. And even if the group gets the go ahead, the decision of who owns it has to be made before spring 2019. And even then, funding will be needed to rehabilitate and restore the bridge.

In other words, one has to happen after another in sequential order, yet some people are trying to make haste by putting the carriage before the horse- meaning tear the bridge down before the ownership transfership is approved and inspite of violations they make be committing.  This mentality is clearly American and has been the target of comments by the German far-right party AfD to compare modernization in Saxony at the cost of historic places of interest to the works of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This commentary, albeit very harsh, is not far from the truth, and should the old Bockau Arch Bridge come down too prematurely, it may serve as a basis for more voters to flock to the AfD and for the current government in Saxony to topple come the state elections in 2019. If the party uses the slogan “Remember the Rechenhausbrücke!” similar to the Alamo in Texas, the people in Saxony will understand why.

Membership to join the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Freunde der Rechenhausbrücke):

There are many ways to join the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge. To join and simply follow the page is as easy as clicking here and liking the page. But to really get involved and help out in saving and supporting the bridge financially and/or through other means, please contact Ulrike Kahl at this E-Mail address: ulrike.kahl@gruene-erzgebirge.de She can provide you with a membership application form and other information on how you can help. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles if you only speak English but still would like to join.

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