Saturday, October 2, 2010

Journal Star Article about Wilderness Park Bridges

Biker/hiker bridge in Wilderness Park that the city closed, but apparently people are still using. (PETER SALTER / Lincoln Journal Star)

The bridges of Wilderness Park were closed this summer after one buckled beneath the weight of 20 children.
Then closed again. And again.
While city workers keep draping plastic fencing over the ends of the bridges, the park's users -- walkers and cyclists -- keep ripping it down and shoving it aside.
"Whatever structure we put up seems to be removed almost immediately," said Terry Genrich of the Parks and Recreation Department. "When I hear that, I send staff back out there to close it."
None of the children was seriously hurt in the July 21 bridge collapse on the park's southern edge. But the city immediately inspected the park's remaining 11 bridges, eventually closing three.
One -- an L-shaped span north of 14th Street -- will be removed this winter. The city will lengthen another -- west of Densmore Park -- because too much ground has eroded beneath it.
The third and more heavily traveled extends 150 feet across Salt Creek just south of Pioneers Boulevard. The city closed it Aug. 17, saying it needed a structural analysis that should take two weeks.
Six weeks later, the bridge remains officially closed.
But still clearly traveled.
The city is waiting for more information from its inspectors, Genrich said. It may know in the next two weeks whether the bridge is safe and, if not, what it needs.
Until then, he said, assume it's dangerous.
Matt Gersib, who rides the park about four times a week, has stayed off the bridge. But the semi-pro racer has seen others on it, and he has his suspicions about who keeps undoing the city's efforts.
"There's some people who use the park that are relatively persistent."
Which is what city workers are learning.
They could put up barriers stronger than plastic fencing, Genrich said. But it might not be enough.
"People go out with all types of equipment and remove them."
Reach Peter Salter at 402-473-7254 or

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