Bunker Mill Bridge (almost) Completed

The Bunker Mill Bridge at the end of its completed restoration project. Photo courtesy of Scott Allen
The Bunker Mill Bridge at its Endspurt of the restoration project. Photo courtesy of Scott Allen

With New Decking installed, Bridge can be crossed again- Final Phase of work to begin; More financial help needed to complete the final touches.

KALONA, IOWA-  On 13 August, 2013, the same weekend as the Historic Bridge Weekend, a group of people set fire to a unique historic truss bridge spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, a product of the King Bridge and Iron Company. When Julie Bowers and members of the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge purchased the structure from the county, the bridge was a mere steel skeleton with no where to cross. Fast forward to March of this year, the new decking has been added to the bridge and one can cross it once again for the first time in a nearly three year absence. A pair of videos by Julie Bowers shows you how the bridge has come a long way from almost being condemned to the wrecking ball to one that will soon become part of a bigger recreational project, including all the fine print involving owning such a historic landmark:

Despite the decking being added, there is still work left to be done with the bridge. A press release by the group shows you the details of the progress, what is next with the project, how much money is needed to complete the last phases and how you can help put the final touches on the project. The press release includes some photos and a cool video provided by Nels Raynor of BACH Steel showing how the new decking is being added. Here’s the release as of 4 April 2016:

Photo by Scott Allen
Photo by Scott Allen

In a stunning development, the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge® newly appointed officers decided on April 1, 2016 to leave the group managed and funded by NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA, was informed of their decision on Saturday at Bunker Mill Bridge by Henry Swantz. While we applaud their efforts to start a new non profit company to work with the bridge, under advise of counsel, until they are recognized as such, with the solid financial and insurance backing that they need, their efforts with the bridge ownership are over, and the representatives to our board from FBMB – Doris Park and Scott Allen gave up their rights as board members”, stated Julie Bowers. “I’m not sure they realized what they were doing when they decided to leave but we’ve seen this before when people that are working together get a title. However, the executive director needed more official help and it seemed to be a good time for that change. The new officers appointed were Travis Yeggy, President and Scott Allen, Executive Director, Mike Riddle, VP, Doris Park, Secretary and Irma Altenhofen, Treasurer. With the consent of the core group they decided to go rogue. They didn’t want to stand behind the binding legal agreements and promises held by NSRGA and FBMB. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges (W’B) is the legal owner and contractor for the project and will continue to work the bridge project as money and scheduling permit.

We are hopeful that the new non profit will work to find collaborators within the county and region to build a bigger and better park for northern Washington County. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges will donate $1000 to help get them started. We will not use any of the $1680 in donations that recently came in for bridge construction for that. W’B is really geared to be interim owners of bridges, and our insurance is realized because of the experts that we use to engineer and restore our bridges. This bridge was to be the first to become one of our bridge parks. Once the Bunker Mill Project is complete, we hope to have many conversations on it’s future. We’ve found, especially with this project, that we need to keep construction separate from the friends groups and local politics. Most friends groups don’t have the expertise to pull off such large and expensive projects, that is why the county allowed us to take on what they didn’t want, because we had those credentials. This is our mission, to preserve historic bridges and greenbelts, and with our growth we are pleased to be able to help an Iowa bridge.

Workin’ Bridges, in an effort to move the project forward in January, encouraged the group to reach out for donors. W’B invested $21,000 in materials and roughly $20,000 in labor for BACH Steel to bring the bridge this far, after their donated time installing stringers. Bowers wants people to understand that while we have come a very long way towards our goal of “Crossing the English”, we are not there yet. Another $30,000 will be required for repair of rail on the approach and the new railing system on the bridge. A wing wall for the south approach is being designed and engineered, and once ready we will bid that work. The north approach, while it held the weight of the JCB, has more spongy planks now. Funding will drive the schedule for completion. Portal gates will be installed on the bridge in order to keep those interested in the project safe until it is finished. We don’t want anyone falling off the bridge in their excitement. The bridge was engineered for recreational use, a maintenance truck, horses and buggies and people for the future, but it is limited in what it can do. The easements were acquired for the preservation and protection of the bridge only.

Each of the easements, Miller, Ehrenfeldt and Stumpf have different requirements. The Millers wanted nothing on their side, the Ehrenfeldt’s wanted no trespassing signs posted but no fence to keep folks out of their land. In the Stumpf easement, the area was vacated by the county in 2013 to Mr. Stumpf in order to grant us that last easement. At the time and in a meeting, the area was staked out and none of our easement touched Nutmeg Avenue. He has asked us to limit the access of folks coming from the north directly onto his property. Just yesterday someone came out at 5 am to try to walk over the bridge and that made us realize that the bridge park must be controlled more, and that was one of the areas that FBMB was to be working on before they voted to leave the services that we have provided behind. Stumpf has put an offer on the table for a purchase the “Catholic 40” as it is commonly known. Our binding agreement with Stumpf allows for a gated fence that will help us define the park boundaries on the south side. He would also allow the gates open for our regular Tuesday events (that won’t take place this summer) and for special events or visiting Sundays for the Amish. There is no further road vacation needed which only came out on discussions with Stumpf that should have happened years ago. Our south side friends that have enjoyed the bridge and the road will be able to continue to do so. We hope to see them in the middle soon, but in the meantime we have to go back to work to make more money to finish the job. Donations made to FBMB will continue to be tax deductible and if they flood in the schedule will move up. NSRGA has reached out to the Natural Heritage Foundation of Iowa, part of the Land Trust Alliance to help us define what a park would look like and what signage and posted hours need to be. Other groups would also be interested in a collaboration and if partners can be found for a REAP grant, the area could be managed the state DNR as we know the County Conservation Board is not interested in managing a park near Kalona.

Questions can be directed to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges at jbowerz1@gmail.com or 641.260.1262.

And when the Sixth Day was completed, came the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest. And Life was good and the People were happy. Photo by Scott Allen
And when the Sixth Day was completed, came the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest. And Life was good and the People were happy. Photo by Scott Allen

bhc new logo newsflyer

Bunker Mill Bridge Update: Hot Riveting Restoration Demonstration to take place February 18th

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa.  Photo taken in August 2011

This article starts off with some bad news for people wanting to see how a historic bridge is being restored. The annual Iron and Steel Preservation Conference, which takes place in March at the Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan has been cancelled for this year, due to unforseen circumstances that were beyond the control of the event organizers. The 2015 conference is in the works and more information will come when it becomes available.

And while the conference features workshops on how to rivet, straighten metal and perform other tasks related to restoring a historic bridge, people interested in seeing this live have a grand opportunity to do so- in Iowa!  Specifically, at the Bunker Mill Bridge, located over the English River southeast of Kalona.

The demonstration on how to hot-rivet truss parts together and restore portions of the bridge is scheduled to take place February 18th, beginning at 10:00am at Max Cast at B Avenue in Kalona. Work will then proceed at the bridge site, with Nels Raynor of BACH Steel leading the demonstrations. There’s no admission to attend the event, and lunch will be available at the Chamber of Commerce with a free-will donation open for those willing to donate money for the project. Cast iron flowers made using removed steel railings will be made for sale at a first come, first served basis. For more information about the event, click here for more details, or contact Julie Bowers using the information provided here.

Bunker Mill Bridge after the removal of the entire bridge deck. Photo courtesy of Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor. Used with permission

The Bunker Mill Bridge, a Pratt through truss bridge that was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company and modified in 1909 by the Iowa Bridge company, has been literally rising from the ashes, bit by bit. Once considered dead by and condemned by the county after a raging fire this past August, which destroyed the entire bridge decking, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge, in cooperation with the Grinnell-based  Workin Bridges Company and BACH Steel (based in Michigan), have been raising funds for Phase I of the project. There, the main span was jacked up to allow for repairs on the southern abutment and its shoe portion which holds the truss bridge’s end posts and stringers in tact. At the same time, many truss parts, including the stringers, will be repaired or replaced, some of which will be done with this workshop on the 18th. The work will be completed in the spring with the addition of new planking, much of which will have been bought by doners whose names will be on there.

Nels Raynor and crew working on the shoe on the south abutment. Photo courtesy of Julie Bowers. Used with permission.

Phase II of the project will feature the replacement of the sloping northern approach span (as seen in the very top picture) and the bridge railings with that resembling ornamental features that were typical of truss bridges during their hey day in the 1880s and 1890s. A plaque with all the donors will be incorporated into the railings, and a park will be added. This will be done, once phase 1 is completed.

Your help is needed for the completion of Phase I. $20,000 is needed to complete the task. Apart from purchasing bridge memorabilia, the group has offered customized bridge planks at $100 per donor, $400 per set. You can also purchase a stringer for $450, or a C-clip for $10. The stringers for the bridge is used to support the bridge decking (the planks), with the C-clips holding them together. According to Bowers, 1700 of these clips are needed. More information on how to purchase them can be found here.

Bridge memorabilia for sale. Photo courtesy of Julie Bowers. Used with permission.

The Bunker Mill Bridge project has brought together bridge experts and many who have no background knowledge of bridge preservation but have an interest either in this profession, saving the bridge, the county history, or all of the above. It is hoped that once the restoration of the bridge is completed, that it becomes not only another example of how a bridge made of metal can be restored for generations to come, but one which involved people from all aspects, seeing how a bridge can be built and rebuilt, learning new things that can be used for their own purposes, including restoring their own bridges, which are enough to go around.

Author’s Note: More on the project will come through the Chronicles. You can also check out their page on facebook for more photos and other items of interest. Thanks to Julie Bowers for the use of her photos for this article.  

Newsflyer: Christmas Eve 2013

Here’s to great success! Happy Holidays! Photo taken at the Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany in December, 2013

City Council Approves Public-Private Project for Historic Bridge; Restoration of Another Historic Bridge Under Way; So is Voting for Ammann Awards

It’s becoming a rarity that we are getting a series of good news about the future of historic bridges, even more so when you have the public sector involved. But at Christmas Time, it is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. Here’s why as the Chronicles has a special Newsflyer dedicated to some preservation projects that are under way right now!

City Council Approves Public-Private-Project for Green Bridge

The Des Moines City Council last night unanimously approved a joint project to raise funding for the restoration of the Jackson Street /5th Street (a.k.a. Green) Bridge. The vote was 7-0 and reflects on the outcome that had come about a week earlier. There, the Friends of the Green Bridge presented the proposal for the project to the City Council, which included speeches by many people involved. There has been unanimous support for the project ever since the facebook and petition pages were launched in November, which was one of the key factors, leading to last night’s decision for the project. The approval includes relegating the $750,000 originally set aside for bridge demolition for the restoration project, plus raising additional funds for the project, pending on what is actually needed. While a report from the construction firm Shuck-Britson claimed that between $2m and $3.75m is needed for the project, another  firm, Jensen Construction, also based in Des Moines, will undergo a thorough inspection to determine the needs of the bridge.  Fundraising efforts will start in the next year, the Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest there.  Once deemed as condemned, the Green Bridge, built in 1898 by a local bridge builder is receiving a new life from unexpected sources, namely, the people wanting to keep the bridge- and now the City Council. 🙂

More information about the bridge can be found here.  An interesting story about Jensen Construction and its history can be found here. Article about the project: here.

Author’s Note: More updates, discussions and other facts about the bridge can be found here, but please keep in mind that restoration examples can be found in the Chronicles’ facebook page.

 

Restoration of Bunker Mill Bridge Underway

Rising out of the ashes caused by arson in August, another Iowa historic bridge, located 170 miles east of Des Moines, is currently being restored. The Bunker Mill Bridge, built by the King Bridge Company in 1887 and reinforced by the Iowa Bridge Company in 1913, is located southeast of Kalona in Washington County. The bridge’s decking was torched in August 2013- the same time as the Historic Bridge Weekend. Yet, thanks to the county’s approval of selling the bridge to the organization, Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge and the fundraising that has been done so far, work is being undertaken on the bridge. At the moment, after removing the charred decking in November, crews have jacked up the bridge’s superstructure to strengthen the abutments. I-beams, which support the decking of the bridge, is needed for the work, and many bridge parts are being strengthened through welding and new parts that coincide with the original construction of the bridge- termed in-kind restoration.  Nels Raynor of BACH Steel, a candidate for the 2013 Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement, is overseeing the project with 20-years of experience and many successful projects under his belt already. While the cost for the project has been reduced to $275,000 (from the $450k that was originally estimated), the funding is over a third of the way finished and more is needed. For more information, click here for details.  A step in the right direction and thanks to the work of many dedicated people, Suzanne Micheau, Julie Bowers and others, the bridge is making a comeback bit by bit. 🙂

 

Voting underway for Ammann Awards

Don’t forget that the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards is in full swing. Because of the high number of entries this year, you still have a chance to download and fill out the ballot (click here) and submit it via e-mail before January 3rd. The winners for each of the eight categories will be announced on the 7th. If you have problems filling out the ballot, an e-mail with your favorites is also fine, too.

At the end of the year, there will also be a Smith Awards voting for the category of Biggest Bonehead Story. There the voting will be different as articles will be posted on the Chronicles’ facebook page, and the winner will be based on the number of likes received. Like the Chronicles and follow for more details.

 

Author’s note to close things off: The Chronicles was a bit absent this month due to a tour through Berlin’s Christmas markets. Berlin is Germany’s capital. More information, photos and articles about the Christmas markets can be found through sister column, The Flensburg Files. Articles about the various markets and interesting facts will be posted both on the page as well as on its facebook page during the holiday season.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and the Flensburg Files would like to wish you and yours the best and safest this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy 2014 from our house to yours! 😀

 

 

 

 

Bunker Mill Bridge sold to private organization

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Washington County sells bridge to private organization for $1 plus donates funds for restoration.

Kalona, Iowa-  Efforts to save and restore the 1887 Bunker Mill Bridge took two gigantic steps towards reality yesterday, as Washington County officials voted unanimously to sell the King Bridge Company structure to the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge and the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association for $1. In addition to that, the county commissioners voted to appropriate the $80,000, originally set aside for demolishing the bridge, for restoring it to its original form.  With $80,000 from the county, plus the funds raised by the organization itself, the group will be able to proceed with the plans to restore the bridge, which includes determining what is needed for the bridge and carrying out the work.

The 290 foot long bridge, which spans English River southeast of Kalona, was severely damaged by arson on August 12th with the wooden decking destroyed. The Pratt through truss structure appeared to be unscathed in the blaze. There’s still no word on who started the blaze but those with information on the arson are asked to contact the county authorities.

The cost for a full restoration of the bridge is estimated at $460,000 with fund-raising efforts to continue together with applying for grants on the county and state level. Yet that sum may be reduced as the project progresses, according to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA which is helping FBMB with the project.  FBMB with Suzanne Micheau as Managing Director and NSRGA, with Julie Bowers as Executive Director will be overseeing the project with plans to restore and reopen the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists. There is hope that the plan to use the bridge as part of the bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond will be realized once the bridge is restored. But when that will be done remains open.

  If you are interested in donating money or expertise to this project or would like more information, please contact Suzanne Micheau, Managing Director at suzanne@kctc.com or (319) 936-6339 or Executive Director, Julie Bowers, jbowerz1@gmail.com (641) 260-1262.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments on this project and congratulates all parties on a job well done. Purchasing the bridge is half the battle. The second half is doing the actual work, which has received enormous backing from the county and elsewhere. Best of luck! 🙂

Newsflyer 2 October, 2013

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

 

Bridgefest in Iowa; Bridge Closures due to Concerns

Let’s start off with a simple question for this Newsflyer: If you see a bridge that is unstable, who do you go to to address these concerns? Naturally a local government agency who oversees responsibility for the structure and passes it on to the state in hopes money will come their way for repairs or replacement. Yet with the US Government at a shut down due to impasses between the Republicans and Democrats on how to free up money to pay Washington’s employees, a chain reaction from Washington to the local levels occurs. And then we have the next problem, which is “We don’t have any money, sorry!”

Imagine that the number of unstable bridges increases into the hundreds and they include major crossings. This will be the case unless politicians at the House and Senate come together to resolve the fiscal issues that have faced them for weeks, or face recall elections that would be the largest ever in history.  Three bridges represent examples of pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Green Bay Interstate Bridge Closes- approach span collapses: Motorists last week woke to a nasty surprise as the commute across the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge was impossible. Reason: A pier in the southern approach span sagged, pulling the section down by four feet. The closure happened on the 25th of September and will remain that way indefinitely. Already people are developing bridge-phobia because of the height of the bridge, consisting of concrete slab approaches and a steel through arch main span over Fox River. But Gov. Scott Walker and transportation officials reassured the people that the bridge will be fixed and reopened, albeit it make months to even a year to fix the problem. Built in 1981, this is the third 80s style bridge in the country that has collapsed this year.

Barge rams Matthews Bridge, closing it indefinitely: Jacksonville, Florida is known for numerous large steel truss bridges spanning St. John’s River carryinmg massive volumes of traffic. When one bridge closes, the others endure more stress by extra portions of cars having to take a detour, causing jams and structural strain to the bridge. The Matthews Bridge, carrying FL Hwy. 115 (a.k.a. Matthews Expressway) represents a clogged artery needing to be opened again, after a ship carrying cars rammed the cantilever truss bridge on 26th September, forcing the closure of the bridge indefinitely. No one was hurt on the bridge, but the damage to the decking of the 1951 span was substantial, meaning it may take weeks until the bridge can be reused again.

Historic Bridge in Pennsylvania closed- future uncertain

Wolf Bridge, located over the Conodoguinet Creek near Carlisle, is a Pennsylvania through truss bridge with pinned connections, one of many examples of bridges built by Nelson and Buchanan, as it was built in 1895. Yet the 192 foot long bridge is in trouble as it was closed for safety reasons on the 26th of September. County officials are now determining whether the bridge should be repaired or remain closed until 2016 when it is scheduled to be replaced. This has put more strain on motorists who had relied on this bridge to access the community because another bridge is still closed for reconstruction. And that’s not all: the county is strapped for money for bridge repairs, which makes it a chore for people to find new alternatives. And this apart from the interest in saving the bridge….

Yet if the government cannot do something about the deficiencies, then it is up to the people, who are suffering from the effects of a governmental shutdown, to step in and get the job done. In Kalona, Iowa, the preservation group working to save the Bunker Mill Bridge, an 1887 wrought iron truss bridge that was severely damaged by arson last month, is making strides in saving the bridge. Already, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge, an umbrella group of Workin Bridges (WB), a Grinnell-based company that specializes in preserving historic bridges, has raised over $5000 to carry out inspections to determine the needs for the bridge, with the goal of rehabilitating the bridge and keeping it in its place. Yet more is needed to actually carry out the work, pending on what work is needed for the bridge.

Apart from donations being accepted through WB, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge and WB would like to invite you to join them for the 2013 Bridgefest, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday, October 5th beginning at 7:00pm at the Kalona Brewing Company and Restaurant, located at 405 B Avenue in Kalona. Proceeds from the festival will go to the restoration of the bridge. For more information or if interested in coming, click onto the link and contact Suzanne Micheau, who is in charge of the festival.

 

Bunker Mill Bridge Update 16 September 2013

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Board of Supervisor Meeting tomorrow in Washington. First fundraiser event on Thursday the 19th in Kalona

As mentioned previously in the Newsflyer on 10 September, the Bunker Mill Bridge was severely damaged by arson in August, even though the 1887 bridge (which was rehabilitated in 1913) was scheduled to be part of the bike trail connecting Richmond and Kalona, where it is located over the English River.

Despite the tragic event, the organization Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge (FBMB) has launched efforts to save and restore the bridge for reuse.  Fundraisers have started and more than 120 people have joined the facebook group with more providing support in one way or another. While over 100 people attended the inauguration meeting on September 11th, including the Washington County Board of Supervisors, another key meeting is scheduled for tomorrow September 17th at 9:30 at the Washington County Courthouse in Washington. There a resolution on how funding can be used for restoring the bridge instead of demolishing it will be created and it is hoped that there will be enough support to inspect the damaged structure, repair and restore it and reuse it again. People with a strong interest in this bridge are asked to attend this meeting. If unable, then letters and petitions to the county board of supervisors and the conservation board are strongly encouraged.

As for the fundraising attempts, while T-shirts are being sold with proceeds going to the bridge, the first key fundraising event will take place this Thursday, 19 September at Tuscan Moon Grill on Fifth in Kalona beginning at 5:00pm. A percentage of the proceeds will go to the consultants who will oversee the needs for the bridge. For more information on this event or if you want to buy the shirt, please contact Suzanne Michaeu or David Finley of the FBMB. Easiest way is through the organization’s facebook page, which you can click here to access.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge. A detailed article on the bridge is in the works but it will be released in October once the interviews are finished and more details are presented.