Holly Hart and her grandsons, Nicholas and Garrett Klose, enjoyed the panoramic view Tuesday from the recently completed High Bridge in Eau Claire, a view city officials hope many residents will enjoy.
“See those yellow waves,” Garrett said, pointing to white caps in the Chippewa River below.
Hart, of Eau Claire, and her grandsons, visiting from Wausau, walked across the 898-foot-long bridge, admiring views of the city’s downtown from their perch about 80 feet above the river.
“It is beautiful,” Hart said. “This is going to be a nice addition to the community.”
The refurbished bridge opened Friday, with the trails on either side to be completed by the end of the summer, city officials said. The bridge project cost $1.15 million with the city paying about $500,000 and the state paying the rest.
The High Bridge’s history dates to 1898, when Chicago and North Western Railway built the bridge and later sold it to Union Pacific Railroad.
“It is made from iron, not steel, so that’s old it is,” city engineer Dave Solberg said.
City officials bought the bridge to allow for the building of a natural gas line to lower the cost of that service to the community, said Phil Fieber, the city’s parks, recreation and forestry department director. The taking over of the bridge coupled with adding a stormwater pipe from Roosevelt Elementary School to the river seemed like the time to add a trail over the pipe and redo the bridge, he said.
“It’s a good cooperative project between our park system, our engineering division and our water utility and provides a nice benefit for the community,” Fieber said.
Making the bridge accessible to pedestrians and cyclists is part of city officials’ goal to connect neighborhoods through a multi-purpose trail system, Fieber said.
“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to connect many of the neighborhoods within our community via trails, which are a very safe way for kids and families to get to the downtown area,” he said.
Trails are nothing new in the city. Eau Claire is home to the second-most number of multi-use trails in Wisconsin, behind only Madison.
With the bridge following the same style as the other former railways converted into bridges in Eau Claire, the city can cut down on maintenance costs, Solberg said.
As he walked along the High Bridge for the first time Tuesday, Eau Claire resident Larry Berg said the structure provides another quality trail in the city.
“People have no excuse for not walking in Eau Claire,” Berg said.
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