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Jasper County Tribune

New possibilities for Red Bridge move

Jasper County Museum Executive Director Joe Otto gives a presentation on his efforts to save the historic Red Bridge, the last truss bridge in Jasper County. Otto is now looking into grant opportunities to raise funds to move the bridge.
Jasper County Museum Executive Director Joe Otto gives a presentation on his efforts to save the historic Red Bridge, the last truss bridge in Jasper County. Otto is now looking into grant opportunities to raise funds to move the bridge.

Joe Otto is not one to back down from a challenge and his efforts to relocate the historic Red Bridge continue even after encountering a few hurdles.

The Jasper County Historical Museum director was approved to use the museum’s nonprofit status to apply for grants for the project by the museum’s board during its regular meeting.

“I am targeting a State Historic Preservation Office grant worth up to $50,000,” Otto said. “It is an emergency historic preservation grant that has no deadline beyond the end of this fiscal year.”

Otto said each project is taken on a case-by-case basis. He believes the preservation office will give Red Bridge special consideration given the amount of organizing that has been completed on the project.

“The $50,000 would cover all but $32,000 of phase one,” Otto said.

Should the project receive the grant, Otto said the museum would likely become the temporary owner of the bridge if the county would give it to the museum. The county would retain the liability of cleaning it up in the event it collapses. The second piece of the project that would need to come together is the City of Colfax giving certain assurances that it would accept the bridge upon completion of phase two.

To complete the project, it has been broken into several phases. The first phase sees the bridge moving from its current location on the river to land. After that is completed, the second phase will bring the bridge from its current location near Reasnor to Colfax and Quarry Spring Parks. The final phase has the bridge rebuilt on the river and ultimately used as a walking path from downtown Colfax to the park.

Otto has been spearheading the campaign to move the Red Bridge for more than a year and has had victories and defeats along the way. Originally hoping to work with the county on the project, Otto was informed at a December board of supervisors meeting the county had satisfied its responsibility on agreed upon work for the bridge.

In June, the board agreed to have the bridge surveyed in order to get cost estimates on an eventual move. Calhoun and Burns, county’s engineering firm, did an initial survey but was reluctant to be involved with the project any further due to liabilities.

“Our understanding with Calhoun and Burns was they were not particularly interested in doing that because once it is lifted and they tell them where to secure it, they hold a liability to that and they were not into that,” assistant to the county engineer Pam Olson said.

The county did agree to not intentionally demolish the bridge.

Now working on his own, Otto is looking for new and creative ways to save the bridge including grant opportunities like those available from the State Historic Preservation Office and grassroots efforts. For more information about the restoration and preservation of Red Bridge, visit the projects Facebook page, Citizens In Support Of Restoration And Preservation Of Red Bridge.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com

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