Decades ago, what we called the "Red Bridge" crossed Fish Hook River south of town. Apparently the name was historical, because the bridge was a metallic aluminum color.
Sometime later that bridge was replaced with a culvert and the "Red Bridge" became a footnote in Park Rapids history.
But that piece of history took on new life in the mid-1970s when the city decided to replace a footbridge over Fish Hook River east of the old swimming beach. The city needed a bridge design and approached Bob McClelland, our father/ grandfather/great-grandfather, who had recently retired as an engineer with the Hubbard County Highway Department. He agreed to design the new footbridge, and agreed to design it for no fee if they would paint the new bridge red.
The new footbridge was built, but one year after it was completed, it still had not been painted red. Bob went back to the city leaders and reminded them of their agreement. Soon after, the footbridge was painted and Park Rapids once again had a Red Bridge.
Over the years, our family has been delighted to see the Red Bridge become a landmark. It has become the subject of paintings, photographs and Christmas tree ornaments. It has served as a setting for weddings and other ceremonies. It has lent its name to a film festival and has become an icon of the city. All this is in addition to its primary function as a scenic path between the town center and the Heartland Park and Trail.
Now that we have retired and moved back to Park Rapids, we have become aware that the function of the Red Bridge as a scenic path needs to be addressed. We understand that a modern-day path needs to be accessible as well as scenic, and we support replacing the wooden Red Bridge with a path accessible to all. We hope, however, that this piece of Park Rapids history can be preserved. Perhaps its location or its form will change. But we hope that the community will harness its imagination, creativity and appreciation of history to retain this symbol of the picturesque and vibrant community Park Rapids is today.
Martha McClelland Tacker