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Kalona Protects a Bridge to the Past

KALONA, IA (CBS2/FOX28) The people near a small Washington County city are banding together to save a piece of local history.

To most people, its just another bridge. A pile of wood, concrete and metal put together quite a long time ago.

"The bridge was built in 1887 by the King Iron Bridge Company out of Cleveland, Ohio, said the Executive Director of the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association Julie Bowers.

But to these folks, its a landmark. A project. Something to save.

"I mean you look at it. What do you think? It's worthy of preservation isn't it? It's beautiful, said Bowers.

Julie Bowers helped form the friends of Bunker Mill Bridge, group raising money for restoration.

Before the grassroots effort, the bridge was basically orphaned. The County didn't want to pay for the repairs and it's too far outside Kalona City Limits to use City money.

"It's been extremely rewarding for us...to see a group of people get together and form a coalition to save their bridge, said the Owner of Box Steel, Nels Raynor.

Raynor says government agencies often value bridges based on how much they can hold, so Bunker Mill doesnt get much attention. But for Raynor and everyone else working to keep the bridge here, its much more.

"You're not just preserving a bridge. It's a part of history. It doesnt need to be a big fancy bridge. it's a gorgeous structure. Why not save it, said Raynor.

The path to opening the bridge is a long one, but in the middle of all the work, Julie took a second for herself.

"I just stopped for a minute this morning and went, "Wow I am really happy. I am about as happy as it gets, said Bowers.

But after the holidays, it back to the grind. One bolt at a time.

The Friends of the Bridge say restoration costs are estimated at about $270,000. Theyve been applying for grants from local organizations and working with contractors to minimize costs wherever possible. The plan is for the bridge to be open to foot traffic and small vehicles.
 
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