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The project will go to the Park rapids City Council for approval. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)
The project will go to the Park rapids City Council for approval. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)
DNR looks for direction on bridge replacement
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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Plans for replacing the Red Bridge in Park Rapids will go to the city council for input and approval.

The Department of Natural Resources is proposing the Red Bridge that crosses the Fish Hook River be replaced with a 180 foot steel structure in 2013 or 2014. The bridge replacement coincides with improvements planned for Red Bridge Park, including a trailhead facility, parking lot and kiosk. The city has received $137,000 in grant funding for the improvements.

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DNR, city and county officials met Wednesday night to discuss the next steps for the bridge project.

An open house was held two weeks ago to garner input from the community. At that meeting, some people voiced concern that the new bridge wouldn't be red and would look much different than the current bridge. While DNR officials said they would be amenable to working with the city to paint the bridge red, the cost would fall to the city.

"After the open house, I only heard positives," said city planner Dan Walker.

The Red Bridge replacement project would reroute the current trail, which goes across the trestle bridge to Highway 34. The trestle bridge is in poor condition and is posted now for a maximum of 1,500 pounds. The DNR would remove the trestle bridge as part of the project. It would not be replaced.

Tony Walzer, with the DNR, said the current Red Bridge has been in place since the 1970s. The existing Red Bridge is 60 feet long and the new bridge is proposed to be 180 feet.

It would start in the same location on the Red Bridge Park side and be longer on the Heartland Park side. The height would remain the same as the existing bridge, with 7 ½ feet between the bridge and the water.

If the bridge were raised to 10 feet, it would cost an extra $40,000. The city would need to come up with the money.

The new bridge would have a 30,000-pound weight limit and be used for pedestrian traffic, bicycling, as well as snowmobiles.

The state started replacing old bridges on state trails in the last couple years. It has been possible due to Legacy funding.

Walker suggested forming a group with members of the community to decide what to do with the existing Red Bridge. At the open house, a few people asked if it would be possible to remove the current Red Bridge and place it someplace else, like in Red Bridge Park over a pond. The DNR said it was willing to work with the city on those kinds of options.

Kent Skaar, also with the DNR, said he discouraged painting the proposed new bridge because it is very costly and has a lot of maintenance. He estimated it would cost $60,000 to paint it. That doesn't include ongoing maintenance costs.

The trestle bridge, where the current Heartland Trail crosses, would be removed. The DNR would be amenable to creating interpretive areas along the river explaining the history.

The Heartland Trail master plan shows the trail heading west through Red Bridge Park and along Beach Road with the final destination being Moorhead. The Heartland Trail Association and Chamber of Commerce have been a part of the planning project as well.

The project goals include identifying and creating a safe link between the Heartland Trail and community, improving the park and trail facilities, enhancing park and trail experiences, promoting economic development with increased recreational opportunities and coordinating a successful project with respect to the adjacent property owners and the community.

The proposed park project has two-way traffic on Beach Road and the Heartland Trail running along the north side of the street. Some right-of-way acquisition would be required.

Water and sewer replacement could be part of the project.

A parking lot would be paved and a pond would need to be added somewhere to collect water.

The council will discuss the Red Bridge options at its Nov. 13 meeting. The DNR is seeking direction in further development of the project plans.

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