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DNR proposes Red Bridge be replaced

The DNR has come up with a proposal to replace the Red Bridge with a steel bridge that would be similar to the one replaced recently near Akeley. (Architects' drawing)

The Department of Natural Resources is proposing the iconic Red Bridge that crosses the Fish Hook River in Park Rapids be replaced.

The good news: The state will foot the entire cost.

However, some people are concerned that in the DNR's proposal the 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.

An informational open house was held Wednesday night for interested citizens to hear about upcoming projects at Red Bridge Park. The proposed Red Bridge replacement isn't the only potential project.

The city has received $137,000 in grant funding to develop a trailhead facility, parking lot and kiosk at the park.

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 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.

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.

Some in the audience asked if it would be possible to removed 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 city will continue to work with the DNR on options for the project, which could happen in 2013 or 2014.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561