Saturday was the day we’d been (not very) patiently waiting for since March 19, 2019, when flooding damaged the bridge railing and supports. The south end of the bridge has been open since last Fall, but the north was not open until Saturday because sand had to be cleared from the trail. Also, the trail was rerouted slightly. Along with the speakers ready to rededicate the bridge (accompanied by the ever-present air boats) were three Rails-to-Trails cross-country cyclists en route from Washington D.C. to Washington state. The bridge is a crucial connector on that route .
While I don’t mind the 8 or 10 or miles of gravel road before connecting with the MoPac at Wabash, it is confusing for those expecting the trail to pick up again immediately. Two cyclists riding south from the bridge asked me that same question when we crossed paths near South Bend. They asked if the trail would pick up again, and I only managed to yell yes, follow the signs, but I didn’t say how far. I hope they found it. My favorite road doesn’t follow the posted route, however. My favorite is the now closed section of mmr that was 322nd from Church to Mynard Roads. It has been gated at the Rock Island trestle and given back to the landowners, apparently.
The original Rock Island railroad bridge was constructed in 1889. After nearly a century or of service and another flood, the bridge was offered to the Nebraska Trails Foundation.
The bridge was renovated into a pedestrian/cyclist bridge and opened in 2002 with 700 people in attendance. I may still have the T-shirt from that event. For the occasion of the rededication of the bridge I’ve decided to re-print an excerpt of a blog post from December 25, 2018 about the bridge and the MoPac trail. For the complete post go to the bicyclincoln.org archives, found under “about” on the site menu.
The following is from the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy website: “In 1989, the citizens of Lincoln voted 3-to-1 in favor of a bond issue to support the city’s burgeoning trail system. As an editorial in the Lincoln Journal put it, the result “reaffirms the responsible desire of Capital City residents; they want to maintain theirs as an unusually progressive and attractive community, being willing to pay for it.” Keep in mind that this was not too long after Rails-to-Trails Conservancy opened its doors in 1986 at the cusp of the rail-trail movement…It started the whole trail system in Lincoln,” says Great Plains Trails Network (GPTN) Founder Elaine Hammer of the bond initiative…In fact, Hammer and a handful of others believed in the trail’s potential so strongly that they mortgaged their own homes to help purchase the abandoned Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) corridor when it came up for sale. Trail advocates had been burned a few years earlier when they were outbid by opponents in an attempt to purchase a portion of another nearby rail corridor, the Rock Island Railroad, and were determined not to lose another opportunity.” The bridge that takes the MoPac over 27th St. is named in her honor.
If you haven’t been back, make plans to do so. It was such a joy to be able to cross it again.