BB Comer Bridge Update: Economic Impact of Tourism Study Arrives.

BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL.  Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers
BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL. Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- While the fire that destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon complex near Sturgis, South Dakota made headlines, espcially because of the magnitude of the blaze and the damage it inflicted on the complex’s two restored historic bridges, another headline quietly made the scene at the same time and is being posted here, despite its tardiness. This is a press release provided by the BB Comer Bridge Foundation on the Economic Impact Study on the Preservation of the BB Comer Bridge (info on the bridge here).

The study, written by Anthony Dixon, Ph.D. was funded in part by a grant from the
National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) in March, 2015. The 37 page study
was delivered to Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on
Frday, September 4, 2015. “The study was requested because, although, inherently
the our groups know that retaining the bridge will sustain itself through hospitality,
retail and events, we didn’t know how it will effect Scottsboro and Jackson County
revenues and we are delighted to read the results,” stated Charles Holderfield,
President of Comer Bridge Foundation. “We still have to finish paying for the
report and feel that will be easier when everyone can read what it has to say about
the potential to Save Our Bridge.”
“We read report to say the best outcome is a public / private partnership that can
conduct the events throughout the years and if that is followed benefits from 1 to 3
million dollars in new money to the area is possible. The study looked only at the
impact of tourism events and “new” visitors to the area. The numbers were figured
using conservative, moderate and very conservative estimates. The highlight of the
report was the real boost that a trail that was able to use the Comer Bridge would
bring to the area, and that surprised us. Given that the study will be very important
to the Land Trust of Northern Alabama and to adjacent counties looking at those
same benefits.”
This study will be presented as a whole to the City of Scottsboro and Jackson
County in their working sessions later in September, but in the interest of time, the group
wants everyone to have as much access to the document. We are seeking input
input through social media and the website and any questions will be answered to
the best of our abilities.
“The removal of the bridge is being planned, I had a call from HRI the contractor
just the other week – they are hoping to avoid blowing it up which is a great thing.
The Tourism Authority is one way to stop the planned demolition and to start the
process of rejuvenation of the area because we don’t have a place for this bridge to
be moved. Sure a span or two could go elsewhere but this bridge is one of
Alabama’s Treasures, it was placed on the 2015 Places in Peril. This report didn’t go
into conclusions of what should be done, just what might be achieved if people
were to understand that it is a resource and not beyond it’s time, stated Julie
Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA. “We are doing work in many states and
this report is quite exciting to our other bridge friends who want to rebuild to retain
our rural heritage.”

The copy of the final report can be accessed via link below. Questions can be referred to Charles Holderfield at 256.486.0442 charles@comerbridge.org or Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262.

ComerBridge_Report_Final

bhc new logo newsflyer

Comer Bridge Foundation to host fundraising event

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Scottsboro, Alabama – The Comer Bridge Foundation has announced that it will host a car show, gospel singing, food vendors and a country music concert, headlined by Leah Seawright.  The event, Cruisin’ Comer Country, will be held at the Veteran’s Fairgrounds in Scottsboro on June 20.  The car show will begin at 10:00 a.m. with registration starting at 9:00 a.m.  The day’s activities will culminate with the Leah Seawright concert from 2-4:00 p.m.

 

Cruisin’ Comer Country’s presenting sponsor is Debbie Mathis Realty and Auction located in Scottsboro.  The car show will feature awards for the Top Ten, People’s Choice, Foundation’s Choice, and Best of Show.  Registration for the show is only $20 and cash prizes, determined by participation levels, will be awarded for People’s Choice, Foundation’s Choice, and Best of Show.

 

CBF President Charles Holderfield and the board of directors have spent many hours working to create the best event possible.  “I believe that this is a great opportunity for the community to have fun and support our efforts to preserve the B.B. Comer Bridge as a historical treasure and quality of life destination for everyone to enjoy.  We believe that the event will be a great success and hope it can be an annual fundraiser for this project,” Holderfield said.

 

The admission for the day’s events is only $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-12, and free admission for children under age 5.  Pre-registration for the car show portion is underway.  You can receive a registration form or obtain more information by contacting Charles Holderfield at charles@comerbridge.org.

You can also donate online at our donation page at Comerbridge Foundation donation page or at our GuFundMe campain at www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge.

BB Comer Bridge Update: Impartial Economic Survey to be Undertaken

Overview of the slough, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- The clock is ticking as far as the future of the BB Comer Bridge is concerned. The replacement span is close to completion, and there are still some issues to settle as far as the future of the 1930 steel cantilever truss bridge is concerned. Apart from the ownership and liability, some further studies on the impact of keeping the historic bridge- among them economic, are being considered. As you can see in the most recent press release by the Comer Bridge Foundation, a grant is being sought so that an independent entity is hired to conduct an impartial economic survey, which will in turn persuade county officials to hand over ownership to the CBF once the new bridge is open to traffic. The date of the completion as well as the eventual demolition has not yet been set, however parties will have to act quickly but thoroughly to ensure that once the new bridge is open, the decision on the future of the old bridge will be made to benefit all the parties involved. More information on the progress of the bridge is in the press release below:

SCOTTSBORO, AL, January 30, 2015 — After the January 26, 2015, meeting of the Scottsboro City Council, the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) is now identifying and hiring an independent entity to prepare an economic impact study. The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. An application for grant funding to assist with procuring the study will be submitted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to comply with the Trust’s deadline (February 2, 2015).

“We have determined that such a study is essential for CBF to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help CBF gain eventual ownership of the bridge and prevent the bridge’s demolition. The timeline for demolition is not as tight as we anticipated, and we have time to explore how to lessen risks while growing the rewards of keeping the bridge intact,” explained CBF President Charles Holderfield.

“The study will solidify CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge at an upcoming meeting of the Jackson County Commission,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), another bridge-preservation group. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey represent CBF and NSRGA, respectively.

“The study will provide real numbers that support our plans to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “The bridge can become a place to go for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.”

The board of directors for CBF and NSRGA submitted a formal purchase plan to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which currently owns the bridge. In September 2014, however, ALDOT informed the two organizations that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity. With support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Land Trust of North Alabama, Justin Lackey went before the Scottsboro City Council in mid-January 2015 to request that a tourism development authority be formed by the City to take ownership of the bridge. In addition to owning, leasing and developing land, improving and managing real estate and owning equipment, the authority could also employ personnel, execute documents, and accept and receive gifts from the public or private funds. It would also be able to apply for and receive federal grants.

The City Council members asked for additional time to study the request prior to its next regular meeting on January 26, at which time Lackey requested that the Council vote on the creation of the tourism development authority. The City deferred voting on the authority, with the majority of the Council members agreeing that the City could approve such an authority only in partnership with the County Commission. CBF will provide the economic impact study to the County Commission for review prior to formally requesting that the Commission consider partnering with the City Council to create the tourism development authority.

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Certificate from the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

More updates on the BB Comer Bridge will be posted in the Chronicles as the story unfolds. In the meantime, you follow the events in real time, just by visiting  the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and considering  liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation. There you can find out more about how you can help save the bridge.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 40: A Whipple Truss Bridge in Japan

Photo taken by John Paul Catton, author of the ‘Sword, Mirror, Jewel’ fantasy trilogy’ Used with permission

 

The next mystery bridge takes us over 20,000 kilometers away from home, to the country of Japan.  With over 127 million inhabitants and despite the tragedies that have affected them for years- namely the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which effectively ended World War II,  and the triple disaster at Fukushima three years ago (earthquake, followed by a tsunami that wiped many cities off the map and the worst nuclear disaster since 1986)- Japan maintains an unusually fast-paced but honor-obsessed culture, which makes the country stand out among other industrialized countries in the world. The country is famous for its sushi and rice, and thanks to its decades of developing modern technology, Japan is the third most powerful country in the world with regards to the world economy.

Many people do not really think much about Japanese heritage as the population is always on the move. And it is no wonder why  historic bridges are almost next to never mentioned. Yet John Paul Catton, who is the author of the Sword, Mirror, Jewel Fantasy series and webmaster of Planet 303 (Adventures in a Post-Fictional World), happened to find this jewel, while providing readers with a tour of the Japanese city of Asakusa.  The city is part of the perfecture of neighboring Taito, which is part of the Japanese capital of Tokyo.  As for the bridge itself, it has a history of its own. The truss design is clearly marked: A Whipple pony truss with pinned connections. This design was patented by Squire Whipple in 1841, and set the precedent for the development of the bowstring arch bridge in general, which started populating the American landscape in the late 1860s. The Norman’s Kill Bridge near Albany, New York, built in 1869, is one of the earliest examples of this truss type.

The Whipple truss bridge at Asakusa, according to Catton, used to be located in Fukugawa, which is southeast of Yamaguchi on the extreme southwest end of Japan. It was relocated to this place in Asakusa in recent times, perhaps 10-20 years ago,  given the newness of the abutments, and the roadway that runs underneath the span. While no exact dimensions have been found on this bridge, one can assume that the span is between 20 and 30 meters long. Because welded and riveted connections were introduced in 1910 to replace the pinned connections, one can assume that the bridge was originally constructed in the time period between 1865 and 1880, and whoever designed the span was either a disciple of Squire Whipple himself, or he borrowed the design from him (or his colleagues) to use when building it at Fukugawa. Because Fukugawa is 918 kilometers (570 miles) southwest of Asakusa (in Tokyo), the feat of relocating the span to its current place must have been a Herculean one, because of the exorbitant costs combined with obstacles in transporting it (Think of the mountainous landscape, combined with potential earthquakes, which overshadow the well-knitted infrastructure).  Such a feat is rare to find in the United States, yet attempts are underway to relocate a truss bridge from Pennsylvania to Alabama as part of a major project, supported by Alabama DOT and a private group wanting to save the BB Comer Bridge. If approve, this record distance of transporting a historic bridge from A to B, will surely be broken.

This bridge was first mentioned through bridgehunter.com, though a thorough article about the bridge and the request for information about the bridge’s history has not been written until now. Therefore, the Chronicles needs your help regarding finding the following information:

1. When was this bridge built?

2. Who was the bridge builder? Was he a disciple of Whipple or did he work for a firm in Japan (or elsewhere)?

3. Where exactly was this bridge located in Fukugawa?

4. Because of the fact that the bridge is one of the oldest left in Japan, what was the motive behind relocating the span to Asakusa?

5. When did the relocation take place and how?

Send your information to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. As soon as all the questions have been answered, there will be a follow-up to this article in the Chronicles.

Japan does take pride in its culture, and how (and why) this bridge was relocated remains a mystery, except for the fact that they really care about it, considering it one of the important landmarks of Japanese history. The Chronicles is working together to make sure the bridge’s history and its association with the development of the Japanese infrastructure comes to light. More on this Mystery Bridge will follow.

Fast Fact: Fukugawa is located between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities that were destroyed by two atomic bombs in 1945. President Truman ordered the bombs to be dropped after Germany surrendered to the Allies in May. Hiroshima was destroyed on 6 August, 1945, Nagasaki followed three days later. Japan surrendered on 2 September, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito signed the surrender papers on the USS Missouri, with General Douglas MacArthur overseeing the process. How nuclear radiation affected Fukugawa as a result of the two bombs, remains an unknown factor.

The author of the Chronciles would like to thank John Paul Catton for the use of the photo.

 

 

BB Comer Bridge in Alabama: Demolition Funding can be Repurposed for Rehabiliation

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

 

Spanning the Tennessee River at Scottsboro, Alabama, the BB Comer Bridge represents a classic example of a cantilever truss bridge that is traditionally a target of progress, especially in light of the Minneapolis Bridge disaster six and a half years ago. Yet a preservation group is fighting to save this 1930 structure, and the way things are going, they will have things their way in converting the bridge into a pedestrian crossing, especially as the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is providing them with support.

In a letter dated December 31, 2013, to Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges, acting on behalf of Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF), Division Engineer Johnny L. Harris of the ALDOT provided a list of criteria defining the next steps required to change the intent of ALDOT’s contract with HRI Bridge Construction from demolition to repurposing. These criteria are based on ownership, construction and restoration practices, permitting, inspections, and a maintenance plan. Harris noted that the demolition funds CAN be used to preserve and repurpose the bridge IF all criteria are met and approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

CBF is arranging working sessions with local, regional and state officials the week of February 3, 2014.

“We are delighted that ALDOT took our request seriously,” said Bowers. “Workin’ Bridges was confident from the beginning of our relationship with CBF that this bridge can be saved. We have started the visioning process with a concept plan and elevation for the area. These are preliminary plans, and we welcome the public’s input.”

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Recently selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Wiley Bridge in Berk’s County, Pennsylvania. Photo taken by Nathan Holth. Winner of the Best Photo Award. Most likely candidate for the crossing of the slue on the Scottsboro side of the BB Comer Bridge.

Plans to repurpose and preserve the historic B.B. Comer Bridge,  include adding a connection across the slue, which would allow visitors to park, hike and possibly dine on riverfront property adjoining the bridge. This also includes adding a connection across the slue that parallels the bridge on the Scottsboro side of the river. The Wiley Bridge in Pennsylvania, an 1883 truss bridge that is historic by state and national standards is being considered for that crossing. Located in Berks County, the bridge, which won the 2013 Ammann Awards for best photo (taken by Nathan Holth), is slated for removal and will be torn down if no one comes to claim it.

In response to a December 5 meeting with local and ALDOT officials, Bowers contacted Harris to initiate the plan of action he outlined during the meeting.

The CBF is calling on everyone for tax-deductible contributions in any amount, which may be donated online using the donor’s secure PayPal account or mailed to the following address:

Comer Bridge Foundation, PO Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768.

The CBF website features a page with a link to the umbrella nonprofit — The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association — through which secure tax-deductible contributions are being made: http://comerbridge.org/donate-to-cbf.html. A link for CBF contributions is also available on the website ChamberForGood.com.

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the BB Comer Bridge as events start to unfold. You can like to follow if you want more information on preservation examples that are posted on a frequent basis.

Note: The Newsflyer is based on a press release provided by the Comer Bridge Foundation with elements of the Wiley Bridge coming from the previous article on the Ammann Award winners provided by the Chronicles.