Washington County supervisors vote to sell historic bridge
KALONA — The Washington County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to sell the historic Bunker Mill Bridge to the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) and Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge (FBMB) for the sum of one dollar. The board also voted to convey $80,000 towards the group’s efforts in restoring the bridge. The funds were originally to be used for demolition of the bridge.
FBMB Executive Director, Julie Bowers described today’s board action as a remarkable achievement given the short amount of time that both the FBMB board and the supervisors had to accomplish this positive outcome. “The supervisors and county staff truly worked in the best interest of the county residents in preserving this historic bridge for generations to come; they are to be commended” Bowers said.
The bridge was constructed in 1887 and spans the English River connecting the City of Kalona and the rural community of Richmond. Closed to vehicular traffic since 2004 it has continued to be used as a pedestrian bridge. The bridge was severely damaged in August of this year by a suspected act of arson. Washington County authorities concerned over liability issues surrounding the damaged bridge were on track to have the bridge demolished and removed in the next weeks.
Overwhelming support at a community meeting held in early September to save the 126 year old bridge from demolition prompted the formation of The Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge (FBMB) a non-profit organization. The group plans to restore the bridge for pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian recreational use. FBMB has partnered with the non-profit organization Workin’ Bridges of Grinnell, Iowa to provide guidance and expertise to the local group and act as the legal “umbrella” for FBMB.
“Our next step, now that the bridge has been purchased, is to make application for grant monies from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation” FBMB managing director, Suzanne Micheau stated. The group is also planning a number of fundraising campaigns and events in order to reach the $460,000 estimated to do a full restoration of the bridge.
“This amount will likely be reduced as we pursue bids for the restoration work” Bowers commented. The FBMB will also be seeking local donations and in-kind contributions of equipment and services to reduce projects costs.
For more information regarding this and other FBMB activities please contact Suzanne Micheau, managing director at email@example.com or (319) 936-6339 or Executive Director Julie Bowers, firstname.lastname@example.org (641) 260-1262.