Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Preserving history: The Red Jacket trestle bridge conundrum

Chalk up the Red Jacket trestle bridge as a casualty of the floods this fall.

Today's article in the Free Press confirms what many Red Jacket users have probably already guessed: The trail's historic trestle bridge across the Le Sueur River is to be dismantled due to extensive flood damage to the bridge's support pillar. The trail will be rerouted through a nearby park and will cross the river on the Highway 66 bridge, eventually linking back up with the trail on the other side of the Le Sueur. The detour is an already-existing part of the trail designed for anyone who might have had a fear of heights atop the trestle bridge.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. The flood-ravaged pillar looks like a teetering Jenga tower and the relative age of the bridge (built initially in 1874) make it difficult to do repairs on. It's a shame to see such a picturesque part of the trail get torn down, but I saw the pillar up close; I wouldn't trust a mouse on that thing at this point.

Despite the glum news, there is a sliver lining for trail users to consider. The county is working tirelessly to get the bridge dismantled before winter, thus making it safe for cars and bikes alike to pass through on Highway 66 (the road currently passes under the bridge). Additionally, the bridge deck will be preserved with the hopes of building new support piers for it sometime next year. Even if a new bridge is not constructed right away. trail users will still be able to travel to Rapidan or visit the Rapidan Dam if they choose.

The best news to take from all of this is the sense of urgency being utilized by the county board and engineering offices. Clearly, the trail means a lot to them and they're working as hard as they can to repair it.

It won't get fixed overnight, but it's nice to know that city/county officials care as much about the trail regular users (like myself) do.

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