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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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