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Trestle bridge to be removed

The trestle bridge that crosses Fish Hook River in Park Rapids and leads to Highway 34 and a danger-ous crosswalk is used frequently. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
This truck didn’t slow down as a woman and two children tried to cross. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

     Two weeks ago a 10-year-old boy was struck by a car while bicycling across the roadway to Burger King. He was in the crosswalk, but the out-of-state driver did not see him.

     Because he’d come from the direction of the trestle bridge, it renewed the call to remove it.

     And that’s where the debate starts.

     Tony Walzer, acquisitions development specialist with the Minnesota DNR, said the pedestrian crossing “is dangerous, right,” when asked about it Wednesday.

     When the DNR was assessing its wallet in planning the new bridge, which replaced the old Red Bridge, it sent a structural engineer to survey the trestle bridge.

     The pilings were rotting and needed replacing, Walzer said, and the DNR had to prioritize the projects. It simply didn’t have several hundred thousand dollars to fix the trestle bridge. Neither did Park Rapids.

     The decision was to tear down the trestle bridge eventually, but that also costs money.

     The earliest that could happen is next year, Walzer said. No specific date has been set.

     Meanwhile history buffs would like the structure to stay.

     So would Eydie Magsam-Garcelon, who works at Burger King and is peripherally related to the boy who was struck.

     The trestle bridge brings a lot of business to Burger King, she maintains. Diverting that traffic to the corners might have an adverse effect on business, she believes.

     Then there’s the recreational component.

     Kids fish off of the bridge and illegally dive off of it, just kids being kids. Bicyclists use it to cross into the park and it sees a lot of foot traffic.

     Rose Loeffler, who called the Enterprise after reading last week’s story on the boy and his injuries, maintains the crosswalk should be better marked.

     But she believes motorists should also take an adult driving class so they can renew their knowledge of the laws. By state law, motorist must stop if there are people in the crosswalk, and at least slow down if there aren’t.

     She believes kids should take more bicycle and pedestrian training.

     In Christopher Edwardson’s case, he was waved into the intersection by a motorist, who didn’t see a van coming up on her right side too quickly.

     It was the van driver who struck Chris. He was briefly hospitalized, but then released with bruises and scrapes.

     The motorist who waved Chris into the crosswalk is still mad at the man who hit him. She said he didn’t slow or stop for the crosswalk.

     Loeffler is worried that kids play chicken in the crosswalk with traffic.

     “I see them all the time,” she said. But she also sees drivers going well over the 30 mph speed limit in that heavily-traveled part of the city.

     She said she witnessed a near-miss at the Burger King crosswalk just a few weeks ago.

     “If that had been an 18-wheeler, it never would have stopped” in time, she maintains.

     Walzer said when the railroad bridge is removed, the plan is to have fishing and viewing platforms on either side of the Fish Hook River at that spot.

     State Farm agent Andrew Kueber said he’s watched his staff try to cross at the walk right outside his building.

     “Nobody stops,” he said. When the trestle bridge is removed, Kueber believes the crossing will be safer, he said.

     Sheriff Cory Aukes said the crosswalk comes up annually when state, city and county officials meet.

     “Because it’s a state highway it’s really in MnDOT’s hands,” he said.

     “You can only patrol it for so long before officers have other calls to handle.”

     The Enterprise monitored the crosswalk for an hour over lunchtime Thursday and observed hundreds of cars. While many were going the speed limit, big trucks, especially semi-trucks and gravel trucks were clearly exceeding the speed limit.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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