What to do with the facebook site: Save the Green Bridge at 5th Avenue SW in Des Moines, Iowa

35922951_10214208324356331_5024763036515172352_n
Photos by C J Johnson

bhc forum new

DES MOINES, IOWA (USA)/ GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- It has been almost six years since the closure of the Fifth Avenue Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River at the confluence with the Des Moines River at Iowa’s state capital. It has been five years since the creation of the social network platform devoted to saving the three-span Pratt through truss bridge, nicknamed as the Green Bridge, which was built by local, but well-known bridge builder, George E. King in 1898. And lastly, it has been three years since the reopening of this historic bridge and with that, two years since the introduction of new lighting. Quite an achievement for one bridge which has received the support of over 1300 people since its launch.

36223760_10214231350771977_5598667059211796480_n

Now the facebook page Save the Fifth Avenue Pedestrian Bridge (Green Bridge)  has reached the crossroads and we need your help. There are some bridges in and around Des Moines that are being targeted for replacement, some them have already been approved. At the same time, articles, postcards and other photos on these structures have been found and posted on multiple websites and facebook pages. The Lost Des Moines facebook page is getting bigger and bigger, with more and more relicts of the past having been met with the wrecking ball.

And with that, the bridges as well. After all, they are just as important to the history and heritage to Des Moines as the historic buildings themselves. Therefore, the Chronicles would like some input regarding the Green Bridge page. There are ……. Options. You should decide what to do there.

36041943_10214201148576941_1562185102836891648_n
Photo taken by C J Johnson

Option 1: Do nothing. The Green Bridge page would remain as is, and photos and info on the bridge would be added from time to time.

Option 2: Change the page and focus on the Bridges of Des Moines: Past and Present. Here, everyone could add photos, newspaper articles, postcards, stories and even news events that deal with bridges in Des Moines

Option 3: Change the page and focus on the historic bridges in Iowa, past and present. Based on the Lost Places in Iowa facebook page, this one would focus on historic bridges in the state, past and present and would welcome the items mentioned in Option 2.

Option 4: The same as in Option 4, but it would focus on the Bridges along the Des Moines River from its starting point in southwestern Minnesota until its confluence with the Mississippi.

Option 5: Other ideas. Here you need to be specific and write down your ideas in the comment page

Option 6: Shut it down and archive it. This would be the last resort.

Green Bridge draft
Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa

 

What do you think?  Click on the ballot below and spread the word. The voting will close on 1 April with a decision to follow afterwards.

 

Social networking has played a key role in preserving many historic bridges in the US and beyond, as it has served as a platform for ideas and debate. It is hoped that the Green Bridge facebook site continues operating as it has been, but perhaps under a different name and format. The question is how? And this is where you come in.

35633993_10214201151177006_3677238874418970624_n
Photo courtesy of C J Johnson

bhc eric delony

Green Bridge in Des Moines: An Interview with Carl Voss

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.
Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

The ale is on the house and people are celebrating! But soon, the Green Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River in the south of Des Moines, will be receiving its much-needed makeover. After raising over $2.3 million over the course of two years, people sharing stories and suggestions for the bridge through its facebook platform and other campaigns, rehabilitation will be undertaken beginning next year with the hope to have the bridge reopened to traffic by 2017.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles had an opportunity to interview one of the key figures behind the preservation efforts, Carl Voss, to find out how the group Save the Jackson Street (Green) Bridge, supported by the majority of Des Moines’ population of 230,000, plus numerous people with a connection to the bridge’s history, bucked a current trend the city is witnessing with many historic buildings coming down, to save a rare piece of history that clearly belongs to the city. Here is what we found out from him:

  1. How did you guys collect that much money for the project? What events did you have apart from the marathon and the introduction of the brew?

No marathon; not sure where that came from. Oh, I bet that’s a reference to the Mayor’s Annual Ride for Trails, an annual April event sponsored by Des Moines Parks and Recreation to support the city’s trail network. This year, the net ($12,500) went toward the bridge project.

Tapping of the golden keg for Bridge Builder Pale Ale (Oct. 8) was our only other public event. We hoped 100 people would attend; we ended up with nearly 400. A measure of success: attendees drained the ATM machine, which had to be replenished.

Des Moines looks best when public and private groups come together to support a project. And we had it great outpouring of success.

From the public sector—city, county, and state
$750,000 from the City of Des Moines (money they would have spent to tear down the bridge)
$500,000 from State of Iowa Recreational Trails grant
$225,000 from the Polk County Supervisors
$12,500 from the Mayor’s Annual Ride for Trails

The bridge is part of the Meredith Trail; the Meredith Foundation was extremely generous and made an initial in-kind contribution for a $100,000 engineering study of the bridge rehabilitation. The City of Des Moines Engineering Department accepted the study by Genesis Structures of Kansas City and used that study a basis to assemble the bridge package.

The Meredith Foundation donated an additional $200,000 toward the bridge ($300,000 total). Other contributions ranged from $20 to $200,000. Included in this: family foundations, corporations, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Capital Striders Running Club, The Society of Italian-Americans Auxiliary, and the Knights of Columbus.

We tried to cover all bases! Yes, we were extremely fortunate. Only one downtown business said no. Incredible.

  1. Who all donated for the project as far as businesses were concerned?

Nearly every downtown developer made a significant contribution to this project. Because the funds are held by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, there are benefits individuals, foundations, and business contribution as either nonprofit contributions or marketing expenses. Through an agreement with the City of Des Moines, we also accepted three-year pledges; nice for foundations.

  1. What difficulties did you have in the efforts?
    My recollection is that once the $500,000 state grant for recreational trails was secured (required a $500,000) match, we felt the task was doable.
  2. With the Younkers, Methodist Hospital and YMCA meeting their untimely end, was there a point where you were afraid that the Green Bridge would also meet its fate?

A little background. After an initial engineering study determined the bridge to be unsafe (April 2013), the Des Moines city manager recommended tearing down the bridge at a cost of $750,000. After members of the Des Moines Park Board resisted tearing down the bridge and embarked on a social-media campaign, the public joined in (Bridgehunter’s Chronicles was part of this). The Des Moines City Council voted 7-0 in December 2013 to hold off tearing down the bridge and see if dollars could be raised to save the structure. (Side note: I served as an interim city council member when the vote was taken.)

The change was instituted from the ground up by a small group.

Personally, I always felt our volunteer committee was up to the task. It was a fabulous volunteer committee with plenty of community connections. We did this on our own without a professional fund-raiser or marketing professional.

We had a tight timeframe: Raise the funds by the end of August so the bid package could be assembled and bids approved in the December 2015 to January 2016 timeframe. We met our goal.

  1. What exactly is next with the bridge project? What is the time frame we’re looking at between now and the time the bridge reopens?

The bridge packet for potential bidders is being assembled now.

Nov. 22: Council to order construction of the bridge (I think in city language: Bids are advertised)

Dec. 8: Bids due (we’ll have a fingers crossed that the bids come in on or under budget)

Dec. 21: approve contract (assuming a qualified bidder comes in under $3.2 million).

Rehabilitation will begin with the spring construction season (March-April), which helps contain costs (completed in one season). One of the necessary expenses is tenting the bridge to remove lead-based paint.

6.What more is needed for the project? What can a person do to help?

We have raised the $2.3 million targeted for the rehabilitation of the bridge.

Donor plazas. We are now seeking additional dollars for donor plazas (one on each river bank). We already have a $50,000 in-kind gift to tell the story of the bridge construction and the south side Des Moines neighborhood that the 1898 bridge connected. The bridge opened up downtown Des Moines jobs and retail to the vibrant south side neighborhoods, known primarily as an Italian immigrant neighborhood. Many of the descendents of those original Italian families have prospered in Des Moines and served as public officials, business leaders, and restaurateurs.

We are accepting $200 donor bricks for the plazas. I suspect some of these donations will come about when people actually see work being done on the bridge. Details at savejacksonbridge.com

LED lights. We are working with a local lighting expert who is really jazzed about adding LED lights to this bridge, which will be opened 24/7 to walkers, runners, and bicyclists. As you might expect, the LED lighting bundle is not part of the basic rehabilitation, so this will be an additional expense.

  1. If a person is interested in the bridge brew, how can it be ordered/bought?

In all, 640 gallons were brewed for this event. Bridge Builder Pale Ale is available at the Confluence Brewery, several local bars and restaurants, and many Hy-Vee grocery stores. Bridge Builder is available in ½ growlers (1 quart) for $10 in the grocery stores.  The brewery created a really nice silk-screen design for the pint glasses and ½ growlers.

  1. Looking at the article released by the Chronicles, there was a nice quote with an analogy to a song by ELO with “Don’t bring me down!” What’s your take on this trend?

I think I can speak for most committee members: We were committed to saving this bridge. Dang, it’s a part of the downtown fabric and was such an important to link the south side to downtown Des Moines. Great stories have arisen from people who remember walking across the bridge to go to a downtown movie. Or terrified teenage boys and girls driving across the rumbling timbers for the first time when it was still opened to auto traffic.

I think we were happily stunned when so many like-minded people stepped up to contribute—local history buffs, bridge fans, walkers, runners, cyclists, downtown developers, and downtown residents.

This project caught the attention of the pubic and the media. We’re so pleased to save this bridge that’s on the National Historic Register of Places.

What’s in a name?

  • We found the original 1896 bridge drawings for the 5th Street Raccoon River Bridge. (Bridge was actually built in 1898.) When the bridge was added to the Historic Register in 1995, it was added as the Southwest Fifth Street Bridge
  • Some people call it the Green Bridge, the current color, even though it’s been dark brown/black, reddish brown, silver or aluminum over the years.
  • Others call it the Jackson Street Bridge, even though there’s no Jackson Street in Des Moines. It’s actually Jackson Avenue, a street name that popped up 10 years after the bridge opened.

If you want to know more about how you can help, please click on the website and there, you can contact the people who can help you. The Chronicles will continue to keep you posted on the latest on the rehabilitation efforts of the bridge, which is about to start.

bhc new logo newsflyer

Funding for Green Bridge Raised- Restoration to Proceed

Photo taken in 2013

DES MOINES, IOWA-  March 2013: The Green Bridge, officially known as the 5th Avenue or Jackson Street Bridge, was closed to all traffic- cyclists and pedestrians alike. The reason: Structural deterioration, especially among the pinned connections combined with concerns involving the restoration efforts that occurred 20 years ago, after the 1898 structure was converted to recreational traffic. There were worries that the work of art, courtesy of George E. King, who had his bridge building business in Des Moines at around the turn of the century, would end up like the YMCA Riverfront Building and the Methodist Hospital- a pile of rubble!

October 2015- two years later: After two years of efforts and contributions by people of all aspects, the Green Bridge will be rebuilt, thanks to a total of $2.3 million that was raised by the Save the Green Bridge organization through businesses, residents, cyclists, historians, and even bridge-lovers. Even the local bridge company, Jensen Construction contributed in the cause with the bridge inspection which revealed that it could be rehabilitated and reused for less money than the cost for demolition and replacement.

As part of the accomplished goal, Confluence Brewery, located in Des Moines’ southside near the bridge, is producing and selling the Bridge Builder’s Ale, a special beer that is scheduled to be on sale today. A special event will take place this evening at the Brewery, with proceeds going to the new lighting on the bridge. With the money raised and then some, plans are in the work to reconstruct the bridge by building a new deck with some observation points, strengthening the piers, and repairing the steel parts of the bridge. This will be underway come next year with the bridge being reopened by 2017.  The Chronicles will feature an interview to provide more information on the fund-raising efforts and the plans to revitalize the bridge after being closed for two years. This will be featured very soon.

To sum up the efforts to save the Green Bridge, Des Moines has lost some great architectural works during the years the structure was closed off to all traffic. Apart from the CGW Railroad Bridge being removed in 2014 and the historic riverside retaining wall near the Martin Luther King Bridge being replaced, 2015 brought forth the loss of the Younkers Building because of fire a year earlier, the historic Methodist Hospital and the YMCA Riverside Building to implosion. And while Younkers was a loss that was out of the hands of the City, the loss of the Y and Methodist Hospital could have been avoided. Yet its sequential implosions in both buildings provided a good tune to the song by ELO entitled “Don’t Let Me Down.” And while the demolition contractor may be a big fan of the 70s rock group, he will be disappointed to know that the song has a true meaning for a landmark that the majority of Des Moines have fought hard to save- a rarity that does not deserve to be brought down; a rarity that will reopen soon. That means the song will go on, and the demo contractor will have to perfect his ELO song elsewhere. 😉

You can still donate to the bridge project byusing this link: http://savejacksonbridge.com/

Interview to follow, click on the highlighted links for more video and info…..

 

bhc new logo newsflyer

 

Jackson Street Bridge Update 18 November, 2013

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

Proposal to Demo the bridge to be brought up at Meeting 26 November; Voting to Commence Christmas Eve

Things are working much faster than anticipated with regards to the Green Bridge in Des Moines. While talks are being scheduled with regards to finding alternatives to demolishing the Jackson Street (Green) and neighboring Waterworks Park Bridges, the Des Moines City Council and the Park Board have officially planned a pair of important meetings, according to many sources, with regards to the future of the Green Bridge. The proposal to demolish the bridge will be presented to the City’s Park Board on November 26th at 5:00pm at the City Council’s Chamber, with voting to commence on Christmas Eve. Already, according to unknown sources, the City’s manager had proposed to demolish the Green and Meredith Trail Bridges last week to the Park Board only to be turned down by a 7-1 vote.  Despite the doom and gloom being presented by many claiming that the Green Bridge is in imminent danger of collapsing, it appears that the problems that led to its closure in March 2013 are fixable which is a good sign. The question is who will do it and how…

For those wanting to express their support for saving the Green Bridge, click here to contact the City’s council members and here to contact the Park Board. You can also like and follow the developments via facebook by clicking here. (800 Likes and counting, which is a very good sign that the interest in saving the bridge is present). Please ensure that you do this before the 26th meeting as well as prior to voting on Christmas Eve. The Chronicles will continue to follow the developments as they are unveiled, but it appears that the race to see who can get to the bridge first, between the bulldozer and the protesters, is off and running, and many people are looking on with great interest. And one will not have to ask who is cheering the loudest at the moment (and will continue to do so to the very end).  🙂

Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge now on facebook

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

The struggle to save an important landmark of the City of Des Moines has begun! As recently as this past Tuesday, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, in conjunction with Lost Des Moines has launched a facebook site devoted to preserving the Fifth Street Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River connecting Des Moines’ city center with the southern suburbs (more info on the bridge’s history can be found here). The Save the Jackson Street- Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge facebook page is a platform where people can contribute photos, information and stories on this structure (nicknamed Green Bridge), as well as address pleas to the City of Des Moines, which owns the bridge as part of the bike trail system, to reconsider the recent decision to close the structure permanently and remove it. Right now, we’re collecting the first 1,000 Likes, with the bar being raised after reaching the goal. Once the mark is reached, there will be many measures to bring all parties together and find ways to fix and reopen this important link. A petition drive and informational meetings are two of many ideas that are being considered. Like and follow this page (by clicking here) as updates will be presented as they come.

While most information and updates will be found through the facebook page, the Chronicles will continue to provide stories on historic bridge preservation examples, including looking at ways historic bridges can be restored, being a reference for this bridge as well as others that are in danger of being demolished and replaced. This in addition to the bridge tours and the like.  Like and follow on the Chronicles’ facebook and twitter pages and stay tuned for more stories to come.