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Virtually from the day Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge (FBMB) bought the old English River bridge in August 2013, the group planned to recognize donors who would and did help restore the arson-damaged structure.
Now, five years later, FBMB is readying a permanent donor “plaque” in the form of a 6-foot I-beam section leftover from the bridge repairs.
Obtained from Washington County for $1, the Nutmeg Avenue bridge dates to 1887 and was officially closed in 2004 when bridge inspectors deemed it unsafe for any regular traffic.
FBMB’s origins date to that year with a general plan to have it become part of a trail from Kalona to Richmond. However, progress was slow.
The arson fire of Aug. 8, 2013, revitalized the group which drew some 130 people to a planning meeting the next month to restore and reopen the bridge to walking, bicycle and maybe even horse and buggy traffic.
In the process, FBMB bought the bridge. Donations followed, including the $80,000 the county initially had budgeted to demolish the bridge. Estimates were the bridge would be done in early 2015 at the latest.
Unfortunately, FBMB who partnered with the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), based in Grinnell to repair the bridge, later wound up in a protracted two-year legal fight with NSRGA over bridge ownership and financial issues.
In was settled in Washington District Court on March 23, when the court ruled that FBMB owned the bridge.
For original 2004 FBMB members Doris Park and Steve Maxon, the court ruling meant the final stage in saving the now 121-year old bridge, complete with installation of the I-beam, on which all donors’ names would be mounted in engraved plaques.
Because both owned Max-Cast, a foundry in Kalona, it was not difficult to prepare the beam to be mounted just east of the north entrance to the bridge. In fact, Park was already was at work on the names and completed the finial that will crown the beam.
“This really is the last step,” said Park in June. “There is enough room to add to it for more donors to help with maintenance.”
There also is another approximate 3-foot section that can be used if needed. She admitted to be being “excited” about it and looked forward to the planned dedication ceremony tentatively set for September.
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