Over the last five-plus years, the Waverly City Council in various forms have debated what to do about the Third Street Southeast Bridge, known colloquially as the Green Bridge.
Built in 1917 as the Harmon Street Bridge, Third Street’s original name, the steel truss span was closed down in February 2015 after an inspection by WHKS & Co., the city’s bridge manager, found structural deficiencies. Since then, the council haltingly considered different remedies for the bridge, from fixing it to replacing it with a pedestrian bridge to current plans to simply remove it.
As the removal studies continue by WHKS, current council members considered preserving a portion of the bridge for a non-working display. However, on Monday, they changed course.
Following an amendment proposed by Ward 4 Councilwoman Heather Beaufore, the council approved a resolution to have city staff memorialize the Green Bridge with plaques at either end of the bridge site or at a point in South Riverside Park that currently overlooks the span with a budget of $7,000.
City Administrator James Bronner told the council that staff didn’t necessarily want to preserve a part of the bridge, but he wanted to start a conversation over how to memorialize it. He brought forward an estimated cost from WHKS of $55,000 to move a complete span of the bridge.
“I know there has been a lot of discussions of should we move it all, should we do a piece of it, a full span, etc.,” Bronner said. “That’s where I leave it to you, as council, to do the discussion.”
In past meetings, members had discussed moving a piece of the bridge into Brookwood Park, into the portion where former water treatment silos currently stand. Mayor Adam Hoffman had told Waverly Newspapers on Monday prior to the meeting that another possibility was to put the bridge on a pylon in the river near South Riverside Park.
However, the $55,000 price tag seemed to be a sticking point for some council members, while the safety and liability of having the structure on display would be a detriment to the city.
Beaufore added that placing a piece of the bridge within the flood plain could be a hazard whenever the Cedar River leaves its banks in the southeast quadrant of town.
“It could be dangerous for people down river when it floods,” Beaufore said. “I would personally prefer something much smaller scale.
“I frequently go on walks, seeing some of the monuments with the rocks and the bronze plate and pictures and little stories about historical structures. I really like those. They’re really pretty. They give you facts, they give you something to stop and look at and read, and they’re not really dangerous to be going floating down the river.”
At-Large Councilwoman Ann Rathe added that many of the people she spoke to were not generally in favor of the bridge preservation idea, but not because of fears of whether it would float away.
She asked Leisure Services Director Garret Riordan what the cost would be to do a display similar to those, for example, near the Cedar River Dam and the Ira Sturdevant House.
Riordan said the signs at the dam were “right at” $2,000 each.
“(It would depend on) what extent if we wanted to go that way, how many signs there would be, pictures there would be, that type of thing, would have to be considered,” Riordan said.
Bronner also asked if the council wanted to do a smaller-scale memorial of the bridge if they wanted to utilize pieces of the span, namely a girder or flooring.
“We’ve had some things thrown at us by some citizens about some possible looks that could be done,” he said, “but I don’t know what the cost of that is to set aside, cut parts of it off and then dispose of it, that’s also unknown. We didn’t have a good direction how to move forward, how big, etc.”
At-Large Councilman Matt Schneider said that was his idea as well, but he also didn’t know how to proceed, either.
“I’m thinking in terms of cost, a blow torch and two guys, I’m not sure what that is,” Schneider said.
Ward 1 Councilman Brian Birgen also related concerns about liability from people climbing onto the old bridge in a park.
“I agree with Ann that I haven’t heard from anybody who’s 100% in favor of putting a span in the park or preserving a span as much as everybody wants some kind of memorial,” Birgen said. “The idea of something in South Riverside Park that’s overlooking the area where the bridge used to be, with some kind of picture or engraving of what the bridge looked like from that view, I think, would be very welcome.
“We could also put some kind of marking at either end of where the span used to be. … That’s going to get a whole lot less foot traffic if there’s no bridge there.”
He added the $55,000 estimate for preserving a whole section of the bridge is high based on the city’s benefit. He didn’t see the value of spending that much to memorialize the bridge in Brookwood Park, which he said was “off the beaten path.”
Beaufore tossed a few possible budget numbers before settling on $7,000, and asked if there was some way for either staff or a committee or commission to come up with a way to satisfy the goals within that limit. Bronner said she could amend the original $55,000 resolution, which she did.
“WHKS is going to need to tweak the agreement slightly if, in fact, they need to move the span to the park, or if they have to place it somewhere to have pieces cut out of it and then take it away,” Bronner said. “We’re wanting to get an idea of where council sits.”