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Local Editorials

County backslides on Red Bridge commitment

For as much talk and attention that the historic Red Bridge near Reasnor has garnered in the last year, it’s still crumbling into further disrepair.

Built in 1892, it’s not surprising the truss bridge that spans the South Skunk River has seen better days. But an effort to breathe new life into the structure has advanced with an idea to move the bridge 16 miles upstream and repurpose it.

With the sweet gem of Quarry Springs Park development already well underway in Colfax, the bridge, organizers say, could provide the connection between the city and the vast acres of the recreational park as a footbridge.

Colfax resident Joe Otto, director of the Jasper County Historical Museum, has stirred up the excitement for saving the bridge and continues to push the efforts through dialogues like this week’s talk during the historical society’s monthly Brown Bag Lunch series and on social media.

Aside from gathering support from the Quarry Springs Park Board, City of Colfax and hundreds of county residents, Otto also made headway with the Jasper County Board of Supervisors.

In June, the county board agreed not to actively seek out the demolition of Red Bridge, which was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998. Further, the board requested Jasper County Engineer Russell Stutt order a survey of the bridge to determine the cost of separating it from its piers with a crane and moving it to the north bank of the river.

Stutt told Newton Daily News Thursday he still hasn’t ordered the survey. After speaking with a bridge inspection consultant who expressed concerns about the bridge collapsing, he apparently determined on his own not to follow through with the county’s commitment.

Now six months have passed and the fate of the bridge remains unknown.

One thing is certain — Red Bridge is the county’s responsibility. Whether it naturally collapses into the South Skunk River and creates a cleanup nightmare or it’s relocated to become a historic roadside attraction, county taxpayer funds will be spent on the aging bridge.

With board approval in June, the survey the supervisors agreed to ought to be completed, despite the county engineer’s reservations. With a better idea of the feasibility of the move and the cost, the idea of saving Red Bridge can be realized.

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