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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Ultimate Restorations Documentary: The Story of Workin Bridges and the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge.

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Jim Schiffer of Schiffer Group Engineering (left), Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges (middle) and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel (right)

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HOLT, MICHIGAN/ GRINELL, IOWA-  The long-awaited documentary by Ultimate Restorations on historic truss bridge restoration is now available for viewing at www.ultimaterestorations.com or Amazon Prime. Featuring the 1874 Springfield Des-Arc Bridge, an historic King Iron Bridge Co. bowstring truss in Conway, Faulkner County, Arkansas, the two episodes document how an engineer, craftsmen, two nonprofits, a city, county and state worked together to save a rare historic bridge in the USA. Local screening are also being scheduled.

Bach Steel of Holt and St. Johns, Michigan provided the iron restoration expertise. The craftsmen, Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Brock Raynor and Lee Pung put their backs into this project from riveting to pack rust removal, repairing splice plates, lifting and resetting old iron. Jim Schiffer, PE of Schiffer Group Engineering, Traverse City, Michigan. (SGI) worked with Bach Steel to detail the repairs. SGI also engineered the caissons by request from Julie Bowers at Workin’ Bridges who just didn’t want to see another concrete abutment for the historic truss. “These are the kinds of projects we relish. The reuse and preservation of durable cast and wrought iron and steel, that are still serviceable with a little coaxing, to recreate elegant functional forms that the communities can enjoy is really fun. These are the projects that we enjoy applying our technical experience and training to bring to successful completion.” stated Jim Schiffer after viewing the video. Though you don’t see him in the site work, without his engineering neither Workin’ Bridges nor Bach Steel would be able to act on these jobs.

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Working with the City of Conway and Faulkner County, the planning and iron work for the restoration of this bowstring took well over a year after lifting it from the North Fork of the Cadron River. The bridge was restored and reset at Lake Beaverfork in August of 2016. The project began, however, with a site visit in 2010 to discuss the potential of the oldest road bridge in Arkansas, also a King Iron bridge. The project required the aid of the Prof. Kenneth Barnes, then a director of the Faulkner County Historic Society to continue raising the awareness that this vintage bridge needed help. Many of these stories can be seen on the video.

Bach Steel has worked on over 40 historic bridge projects across the country, winning awards for their work in Texas, Michigan and Arkansas since the 1990s. “The Springfield Bridge tells a story of one of the projects that we started with Workin’ Bridges in 2010 and it took years to fund it. There are so many bridges across the country that can be restored but it takes political will, our engineer, money and us to get it done….and big cranes!” stated Nels Raynor at the shop in St. Johns.

Ultimate Restorations produced the shows out of the bay area. Producer Terry Strauss along with Executive Producers Bill Hersey, Loren Lovgren, and Bob McNeil have documented the restoration of some of America’s beloved treasures. “The story of this bridge is what Ultimate Restorations is all about. The vision to save the iconic pieces of our history that would otherwise be lost, plus the skills, passion and talent to bring them back to life. Walking over that bridge, is like being told a story, reminding us of who we are and where we’ve been.” said Terry Strauss, who directed the film in Arkansas. More info at www.ultimaterestorations.com. You can view the Ultimate Restorations episodes on our bridge restoration as well as the full Season 2 of Ultimate Restorations on Amazon Prime with 1874 Des-Arc Springfield Bridge Part 1: Moving Day and Part 2: Another Hundred Years at https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07ZZZJ8D5/ref=atv_dp

Photo by Wayne Kizzar

One of the red-carpet premieres of Springfield Bridge documentary will be at 2 pm on Sunday, November 24, 2019 in Burlington, Iowa at the restored Capital Theater. Community screening dates are also being pursued in Conway, Arkansas, Lansing / Traverse City, Michigan and Grinnell, Iowa and will be announced soon.

Questions and screening requests can be addressed to Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262 –  jbowerz1@gmail.com. You can access more information on the web at www.workinbridges.org and on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges,  www.bachsteel.com and on Facebook at Bach Steel and www.schiffergroup.com. Restoration photos can be seen at Springfield Bridge on Facebook where the process was also documented.

 

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2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois Medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

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The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite Medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:

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Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER

TOUR GUIDE USA:

There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.

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The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE

In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew, this 18-month project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the city council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold Medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021, but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pulp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with the Green Bridge in Des Moines and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:

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And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂

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2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His Response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

AA17Lifetime

 

 

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The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:

AA17TGINT

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Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER

TOUR GUIDE USA:

There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.

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The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE

In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new Location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor and the Crew at BACH Steel, this 18-month Project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful Story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the City council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to Close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021 but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving Gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pilp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with Green Bridge and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:

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And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored- To be Part of Local Park Trail

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Springfield Bridge at sunset. Unless noted, photos taken by Workin Bridges and BACH Steel for press release use.

Historic Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored after a nearly one-year project to relocate the structure to a city park. Dedication ceremony on 23 September in Conway.

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CONWAY, ARKANSAS- Bridge crews and preservationists are celebrating the rebirth of one of the oldest surviving historic bridges in Arkansas. The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is back in use after a record-breaking stint, which featured the disassembling, relocation, restoration and rassembling of the 1871 structure, a product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, all within a span of ca. nine months! Usually, such projects last between 1-2 years, pending on the truss type, length and width and the way it should be restored. For other bridges, such as arches, suspension bridges and viaduct, it may take up to five years, pending on how it is restored.  The Springfield Bridge, with its main span of 146 feet and a width of 12 feet, is one of the longest of its kind built by King that is left. However when looking back at the bridge before its relocation from the Faulkner-Conway county line to Conway City in November 2016, it presented a totally different picture- a rather sad one when looking at it through the lens of Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel.

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Springfield Bridge before its relocation. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Workin’ Bridges is a non  profit organization based in Grinnell, Iowa that is dedicated to historic bridge preservation, and Bach Structural and Oranmental Steel (BACH Steel) of Holt, Michigan. Six years after the completion of a study by Raynor and Bowers , the historic bridge restoration project was successfully completed. The success was due to a rare collaboration between the City of Conway, Faulkner County, and Dr. Ken Barnes of the Faulkner County Historical Society who was essential in the writing and successful grant application and petitioning the City of Conway to find a place to move the bridge. Permission to move was granted by the National Park Service for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A dedication to the restoration and future of this iron bowstring will be held Saturday, September 23rd at 10:00 am  at Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway, Arkansas.

The iron truss was fabricated in 1871 and erected in 1874 over E. Cadron Creek between Faulkner and Conway Counties as the first and oldest highway bridge built for farm to market requirements by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The bridge restoration was funded by City of Conway tourism dollars used for parks, Faulkner County equipment, expertise and  funds for the extra crane, with the help of Metroplan which allowed the restructuring of grant funding to allow preservation to move forward.

The bridge was removed from the Cadron in November of 2016. The BACH Steel  Rivet Gang went to work with the disassembly and marking the members for transportation to a paint removal company in Little Rock, managed by Snyder Environmental. Workin’ Bridges was then given the job of designing the new substructure at Lake Beaverfork, engineered by James Schiffer of Schiffer Engineering Group of Traverse City, Michigan.

Once the caissons were designed, drilled, formed and poured,  and covered with riveted columns repairs to the bridge trusses began. Nels Raynor of BACH Steel is the premier bridge restoration craftsman throughout the United States that specializes in restoring bridges the old fashioned way. “In Kind” restoration means that parts are replaced with similar parts, rivets replaced with rivets and if new parts are required they are fashioned with care. When asked Raynor stated: “This one stands out as one of the most beautiful. I wish there were more people like those of Conway and Faulkner County. Those who wish to protect and save their hesitate. It’s part of my life’s work to preserve those structures. My company has been bless with finding those with the same passion inmy partners Derek and Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagel and Brock. Behind the scenes we have my daughter Heather Raynor, Nathan Holth and Jim Schiffer. We want to thank everyone for giving us the creative freedom to make this one of the most memorable and beautiful bridges we have ever been involved with.”

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Close-up of the work done on the bridge, which includes new decking and railing, plus restoration that is in-kind.

Jack Bell, Chief of Staff for the City of Conway, Mark Ledbetter, Director of Roads for Faulkner County, Steve Ibbotson, Director of Parks for the City of Conway and Judge Baker were the team that provided the collaborative efforts to make this a successful project. They teamed up for all of the site requirements, from building a road and crane pad to the old location on Cadron Creek, to building the roads and crane pad for the reset at Lake Beaverfork. They utilized reclaimed stone from the original abutments to sculpt the new location with retaining walls and provide a bench for viewing. Bell said, “The partnership between Workin’ Bridges, BACH Steel, Faulkner and the City of Conway was essential to bring this project to fruition.  A significant piece of Faulkner County history has been saved and an iconic amenity has been added to our Parks system.”

New railings, as required by law, were designed by Raynor and company, who were able to provide historically accurate laced and riveted railing, using requirements for today’s pedestrians. The rail was then sent to Conway, where the local historical society teamed up with Workin’ Bridges to  promote the “Paint the Rail” campaign. The campaign successfully contributed the funds needed to coat the rail, using a PPG product delivered by Furgerson Brothers Painting.

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Nels Raynor answering questions from reporters.

The restoration will be featured in a documentary filmed by Terry Strauss of Ultimate Restorations and should be available for viewing on PBS and through Amazon Prime in the fall of 2017. It will be featured in a later article provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The project was also documented by Workin’ Bridges with the aid of Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. The bridge was built by craftsmen and the record of their work, the “craftsman’s record” was evident in each cast and riveted piece in the bridge said  Raynor. “To think that this all started six years ago with a site visit to Arkansas with my son Brock and Bowers with Workin’ Bridges. What this bridge has become today is just amazing to me and I have been involved with many bridge projects”.

It is a testament to the fact that we work better together, always have. The collaboration made a very big bridge project manageable, and used resources in a way that reduced time and material cost”, stated Bowers from her office in Holt, Michigan. “One never knows if a site visit that renders real numbers for project evaluation will become a job. These bridges take a lot of time, craftsmanship and money, but in the end it is all about making memories. The collaboration worked well and rendered a project that could have cost far more into an affordable package for the parks system.”

More information about the bridge, pictures from the process can be found at Springfield Bridge on Facebook. Questions may be directed to Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com. The Chronicles would like to congratulations to Julie, Nels and the rest of the crew for bringing a relict back to life. Thanks to you, you’ve just given people a chance to learn more about the history of Conway County, King and American infrastructure. 🙂

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Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored- to Be Part of Local Park Trail

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Springfield Bridge at sunset. Unless noted, photos taken by Workin Bridges and BACH Steel for press release use.

Historic Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored after a nearly one-year project to relocate the structure to a city park. Dedication ceremony on 23 September in Conway.

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CONWAY, ARKANSAS- Bridge crews and preservationists are celebrating the rebirth of one of the oldest surviving historic bridges in Arkansas. The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is back in use after a record-breaking stint, which featured the disassembling, relocation, restoration and rassembling of the 1871 structure, a product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, all within a span of ca. nine months! Usually, such projects last between 1-2 years, pending on the truss type, length and width and the way it should be restored. For other bridges, such as arches, suspension bridges and viaduct, it may take up to five years, pending on how it is restored.  The Springfield Bridge, with its main span of 146 feet and a width of 12 feet, is one of the longest of its kind built by King that is left. However when looking back at the bridge before its relocation from the Faulkner-Conway county line to Conway City in November 2016, it presented a totally different picture- a rather sad one when looking at it through the lens of Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel.

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Springfield Bridge before its relocation. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Workin’ Bridges is a non  profit organization based in Grinnell, Iowa that is dedicated to historic bridge preservation, and Bach Structural and Oranmental Steel (BACH Steel) of Holt, Michigan. Six years after the completion of a study by Raynor and Bowers , the historic bridge restoration project was successfully completed. The success was due to a rare collaboration between the City of Conway, Faulkner County, and Dr. Ken Barnes of the Faulkner County Historical Society who was essential in the writing and successful grant application and petitioning the City of Conway to find a place to move the bridge. Permission to move was granted by the National Park Service for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A dedication to the restoration and future of this iron bowstring will be held Saturday, September 23rd at 10:00 am  at Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway, Arkansas.

The iron truss was fabricated in 1871 and erected in 1874 over E. Cadron Creek between Faulkner and Conway Counties as the first and oldest highway bridge built for farm to market requirements by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The bridge restoration was funded by City of Conway tourism dollars used for parks, Faulkner County equipment, expertise and  funds for the extra crane, with the help of Metroplan which allowed the restructuring of grant funding to allow preservation to move forward.

The bridge was removed from the Cadron in November of 2016. The BACH Steel  Rivet Gang went to work with the disassembly and marking the members for transportation to a paint removal company in Little Rock, managed by Snyder Environmental. Workin’ Bridges was then given the job of designing the new substructure at Lake Beaverfork, engineered by James Schiffer of Schiffer Engineering Group of Traverse City, Michigan.

Once the caissons were designed, drilled, formed and poured,  and covered with riveted columns repairs to the bridge trusses began. Nels Raynor of BACH Steel is the premier bridge restoration craftsman throughout the United States that specializes in restoring bridges the old fashioned way. “In Kind” restoration means that parts are replaced with similar parts, rivets replaced with rivets and if new parts are required they are fashioned with care. When asked Raynor stated: “This one stands out as one of the most beautiful. I wish there were more people like those of Conway and Faulkner County. Those who wish to protect and save their hesitate. It’s part of my life’s work to preserve those structures. My company has been bless with finding those with the same passion inmy partners Derek and Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagel and Brock. Behind the scenes we have my daughter Heather Raynor, Nathan Holth and Jim Schiffer. We want to thank everyone for giving us the creative freedom to make this one of the most memorable and beautiful bridges we have ever been involved with.”

20728098_1486034194850274_5166871995345359615_n
Close-up of the work done on the bridge, which includes new decking and railing, plus restoration that is in-kind.

Jack Bell, Chief of Staff for the City of Conway, Mark Ledbetter, Director of Roads for Faulkner County, Steve Ibbotson, Director of Parks for the City of Conway and Judge Baker were the team that provided the collaborative efforts to make this a successful project. They teamed up for all of the site requirements, from building a road and crane pad to the old location on Cadron Creek, to building the roads and crane pad for the reset at Lake Beaverfork. They utilized reclaimed stone from the original abutments to sculpt the new location with retaining walls and provide a bench for viewing. Bell said, “The partnership between Workin’ Bridges, BACH Steel, Faulkner and the City of Conway was essential to bring this project to fruition.  A significant piece of Faulkner County history has been saved and an iconic amenity has been added to our Parks system.”

New railings, as required by law, were designed by Raynor and company, who were able to provide historically accurate laced and riveted railing, using requirements for today’s pedestrians. The rail was then sent to Conway, where the local historical society teamed up with Workin’ Bridges to  promote the “Paint the Rail” campaign. The campaign successfully contributed the funds needed to coat the rail, using a PPG product delivered by Furgerson Brothers Painting.

19424232_1376387355731871_7286121238968663636_n
Nels Raynor answering questions from reporters.

The restoration will be featured in a documentary filmed by Terry Strauss of Ultimate Restorations and should be available for viewing on PBS and through Amazon Prime in the fall of 2017. It will be featured in a later article provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The project was also documented by Workin’ Bridges with the aid of Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. The bridge was built by craftsmen and the record of their work, the “craftsman’s record” was evident in each cast and riveted piece in the bridge said  Raynor. “To think that this all started six years ago with a site visit to Arkansas with my son Brock and Bowers with Workin’ Bridges. What this bridge has become today is just amazing to me and I have been involved with many bridge projects”.

It is a testament to the fact that we work better together, always have. The collaboration made a very big bridge project manageable, and used resources in a way that reduced time and material cost”, stated Bowers from her office in Holt, Michigan. “One never knows if a site visit that renders real numbers for project evaluation will become a job. These bridges take a lot of time, craftsmanship and money, but in the end it is all about making memories. The collaboration worked well and rendered a project that could have cost far more into an affordable package for the parks system.”

More information about the bridge, pictures from the process can be found at Springfield Bridge on Facebook. Questions may be directed to Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com. The Chronicles would like to congratulations to Julie, Nels and the rest of the crew for bringing a relict back to life. Thanks to you, you’ve just given people a chance to learn more about the history of Conway County, King and American infrastructure. 🙂

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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

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