Cedar Rapids targets century-old Bever Park bridge for removal
Sep 2017

Cedar Rapids targets century-old Bever Park bridge for removal

A sign warns Bever Park visitors to stay off the stone bridge on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

UPDATE: See the most recent response from the city of Cedar Rapids

By Cindy Hadish

A stone bridge that has stood in Bever Park almost since its inception could become a thing of the past.

Jeff Hintz, the city’s liaison to the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission, said crews working on a separate project in the park could remove the bridge, located near Old MacDonald’s Farm, in conjunction with that work.

Iván Gonzalez, a city planner who also works with the commission, told the group at their meeting Sept. 14 that the bridge has holes in its decking and has been closed off from use.

The entrance to Bever Park is shown along Bever Avenue SE, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“It’s sturdy. It’s stone, but it doesn’t look like it will hold up very long,” he said, adding that the Cedar Rapids Parks Department was seeking comments from the commission about potentially moving the structure.

Hintz said the department was “willing to work with anyone who wants to take it, to salvage parts or the whole bridge,” adding there is no money in the city’s budget to repair the structure.

He did not know the estimated cost of repair.

Several commission members took issue with the city’s approach.

“The city always has money when they want,” member Tim Oberbroeckling said. “I’m insulted. Why ask our opinion if they’re going to tear it down?”

The City Council, for example, gave preliminary approval last week to use taxpayer dollars to cover the cost of Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa’s new $9.5 million parking ramp, a project cited by other commission members after the meeting.

“It’s probably been in disrepair a long time and no one’s done anything about it,” member Ron Mussman said of the bridge, adding he was disappointed the city “let it get to this point,” a state commission members often call “demolition by neglect.”

Rustic cabins and bridges were among the park’s amenities in its early years.

Member Todd McNall, an architect, said he wanted an opportunity to look at the bridge before a decision is made. From photos shown at the meeting, it appeared the stonework was intact, he noted, and simple, relatively inexpensive repairs could possibly make the rest structurally sound for pedestrian use.

“Things like this are cultural assets,” McNall said. “You pick them off one at a time and all of a sudden, you don’t have anything left.”

Commission Chairman Mark Stoffer Hunter said the stone bridge, likely built by the 1910s, had once been sturdy enough for vehicle traffic, citing a postcard at the History Center showing a Model T driving over it.

With changes in the park’s roads, however, the structure currently is a “bridge to nowhere” that simply runs over a small creek and ends at the edge of the woods.

Stacked stone, once part of animal display cages, were retained for a Bever Park history display. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Stoffer Hunter said the bridge was made of natural limestone at a time when the city was promoting a “back to nature” philosophy.

The park was established in 1893, after the death of prominent Cedar Rapids businessman Sampson Bever, whose family owned the wooded land. The Bever Park Zoo, which would become home to lions, bears, alligators, monkeys and other animals, opened in 1901, and trolley service to the park, then two miles outside of the Cedar Rapids city limits, began in 1904.

Stoffer Hunter noted that stacked stones that once were part of the Bever Park Zoo’s animal display cages are now the site of the Bever Park History Exhibit. Little else, however, remains from that era.

Old MacDonald’s Farm opened in 1957 and the Schuknecht Memorial Waterfowl Exhibit was dedicated in 1992.

Related: History unearthed at Greene Square Park

Save CR Heritage has been raising awareness of at-risk historic properties in Cedar Rapids since 2012. Help continue this important educational and advocacy work by donating here. We can’t do it without you!


This stone bridge, which has stood in Bever Park almost since its inception, could be removed because Cedar Rapids does not have funds to repair the structure in its budget. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
A stone planter, dedicated in 1909, is one of the few structures still remaining in Bever Park from its early years. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
The former bear den at Bever Park has been replaced by a butterfly garden. (photo/Cindy Hadish)


A boulder that young visitors often climb remains one of the landmarks at Bever Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Ducks nap at the the Schuknecht Memorial Waterfowl Exhibit, one of the newer attractions at Bever Park. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Goats and other farm animals are exhibited at Old MacDonald’s Farm in Bever Park. Bears, lions and other animals were exhibited at the Bever Park Zoo in its early years. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Old MacDonald’s Farm opened in 1957 at Bever Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)


Bob Kramer

Surely there is some way to restore it.

    Cindy Hadish

    Agreed, Bob! It doesn’t look beyond repair.

Elizabeth Smejkal

It needs to stay!! I will volunteer my time and money to help if need be.

Marita Smith

Stop spending money on stupid stuff and keep the beauty. And memories

carole wilson

It needs to stay!! We will have nothing left if this Council has anything to do with it! Tearing down beautiful old churches, homes and that isn’t enough. I wonder how many are from C.R. originally?!


How does the city know that it is cost prohibitive to repair the bridge if they don’t get a price quote and find out? Seems like the people on the city parks dept. board are plenty lazy and just want to take the easy way out. This is history and should be respected as such.

Angela Rundle

I agree the city does have the money to fix it. They waste a lot of money. On stuff, what about the roads. Why is there pot holes that are 6 inches deep in the parks. Let’s keep this bridge. Why would you want to get rid of it it’s part of history here in cedar rapids. Green square doesn’t even look the same. But oh we needed that. So what is that what you plan on doing with ellis park also it take out the bridges. Come on just suck it up am fix it make it better.

Diane Grundeland

No! Please don’t let it get demolished! As we age we lose so much in our lives. It’s nice to look at some past relics to remember old fond memories of days gone by. Please save the little that is left!

Mary Roose Miller

This beautiful historic bridge has been sitting in this state for 3 years–why didn’t some of the millions of dollars of money get spent at Bever Park, where it was needed, before tearing up Green Square Park. This bridge had priority over the downtown park. It doesn’t appear to me that it would have been that difficult to fix if it had been done immediately. I walked across this bridge days before the sign was put up. I have been watching it assuming this day was coming. I am one of the many many people that walk in Bever Park daily. My kids grew up playing in this park. I brought my grandchildren here. I’m getting tired of the decisions this city makes, in the way they are spending taxpayers money. I had been planning to write a letter to the city parks commission, asking them how long they planned to let this bridge sit before fixing it. I guess this was there plan. Walking daily in the park, it ceases to amaze me that all the concrete work is more important than this historic bridge.
Mary Roose Miller

Cindy Garvey

Please keep the bridge. Part of the history. Means a lot to many who visited Bever park many years ago.

Chris Glover

Yes my vote is for saving the artwork/stonework some of which were in the parks, Bever & Ellis park at their inception & others CCC or WPA works! They’re a part of our heritage.

Cindy Hafner

The city can spend millions on whatever the committee deems worthy….like the bike paths that only a minority of Cedar Rapids residents use. And subsidizing a parkade for a bunch of medical offices who can afford to pay their own way. But when it comes to something that is historic in our city…well, we just don’t have the money! Even though they said they never checked on how much it would cost to repair the bridge. I for one will NOT be voting ANY of these people back into office. They obviously don’t care what the average citizen of this city wants!

Steve Rice

The National Park Service has money to preserve our visual history. If its destroyed, my memories of it and the cry of the flamingos from 30th Street will not be.

Deb Bute

Is there a petition to sign anywhere?

    Cindy Hadish

    No petition at this point, Deb. Save CR Heritage is reaching out to city officials to try to come to a positive resolution.

Nancy callaway

I played in Bever Park as a child. My sister and I loved to visit the zoo and always enjoyed the adventure of riding the bus from the southwest side of town to this beautiful place. Our grandmother seemed to know of the best places to visit.

    Cindy Hadish

    Sounds like wonderful memories! Thanks for your note, Nancy!

Sandra Williams

The City Council ruined green Square Park they’re ruining our streets with bike lanes and now they’re ruining everything else that’s in our parks. We live in the midwest not in New York City or Hollywood or Los Angeles remember that will ya. We like our history and we like things simple not fancy. Isn’t it enough that you want to bring in a Casino so you’ll have more money to waste.

    Polly Scherrman

    You’re right about Greene Square. I was shocked when trees were actually removed! Perhaps since the Derecho, “those” people understand that trees are so important.
    As for Bever Park, I grew up on the SE side. The fire truck, zoo, rock, bridge were part of so many childhoods. Leave them there before the special pieces of CR history are all gone.


After the flood of 2008 some of us were told that the Shakespeare Garden would not be returned to its original plan of an English garden because it was too difficult to mow. There’s always a feeble reason that they just don’t want to spend the time or money on some of our precious heritage. Please save the bridge!

Susan K. Richard Lloyd

Could this qualify for National Register of Historical Places (not sure of exact name)?

Cheri A Oehler-Terman

I am SO tired of everything old being thought of as expendable by the current Council. Pretty soon their positions will be a thing of the past!

Sherry Lathrop Henderson

Please do not demolish this bridge!! My gosh, leave things that have meaning and memories to Cedar Rapids!! I understand about the future, BUT, why take away things that have been around for so many years??!! So people in the future can say, “Wow!! This is so Historic”!! Does this mean the Park will someday be taken away?? Fix what needs to be fixed PLEEEEEASE!!!!!

Raejean Fairbanks

This city members woyl d rather spend the money to repair a bridge to turn around spendta x payers money to screw up our street’s instead.

Laura Inlow

Please repair this piece of history

Julie Bowers

Planks are about 50 bucks each. Just do it. Workin’ Bridges could take it on.

Shelley Miskimen

This would be ridiculous to tear down. If it is a danger to someone, protect it from use tastefully CR!

Art Drahozal

Great work Cindy. Keep it up. Save CR heritage.


Please I can’t figure out why you don’t want to leave some sort of history behind in this town that has been there for years? Isn’t our responsibility to who came before us to do that. This money thing is way out of balance. You can always find money for things we don’t need, like a casino. This town is too small and no jobs. Please keep Our History


OK,SO IT’s roped off but a part of the heritage.Cant fix it,fine.So let it sit there! harm no foul.Leave it the hell alone.?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.