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Nearly 300 participants and even some dogs enjoyed a cool but pleasant Saturday morning, March 10, as they ran the seventh annual Run for the Bridges at Wilderness Park.

The event, which includes a half marathon, 10K and 1.8-mile routes, raised over $10,000 to help repair and replace the park's bridges.

“The help of many volunteers who come back each year make this run happen,” said Rosina Paolini, volunteer event coordinator. “In March, it is often cold, and they are at their posts outside for four hours.”

Two of Wilderness Park’s bridges are slated to be repaired within the next year or two, said Sara Hartzell, a planner with Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department.

One, called the Wilderness South Bridge, located one-half mile north of Saltillo Road, collapsed in 2010 while 20 children jumped on it in unison, according to Paolini. The bridge could be repaired in 2019 provided a $250,000 Recreational Trail Grant application is approved in December.

Hartzell is optimistic that the grant, which Lincoln Parks and Rec has applied for three times, will be approved.

“The application comes once a year through Nebraska Game and Parks. They get funding through the Federal Highway Administration, and it’s a competitive process,” Hartzell explained. “Last fall, we were told our application scored very high, but funds were only available for three projects, and we were number four. We were highly encouraged to apply again this year. We were told we would have an excellent chance of getting funded.”

The full cost to construct the 120-foot bridge is about $430,000. The city would contribute about $130,000 from its general fund and the settlement it received from bridge designer Olsson Associates after the 2010 collapse.

The grant requires some private donations. Run for the Bridges has matched $32,500, and the Great Plains Trails Network has matched the remaining $17,500 required, according to Paolini.

Hartzell said that Lincoln Parks and Rec has hired the Iowa-based Snyder & Associates firm to complete the engineering study for the bridge work.

Next on the list is the wooden bridge that parallels Highway 77 and connects the trails west of Salt Creek. Known as the “telephone bridge” because its stringers were constructed many years ago with telephone poles that are rotting, the bridge was further damaged in 2017 by a flood that lifted it off its anchoring posts at one end, Hartzell said. It has been closed off with signs.

“The JEO engineering firm gave us options for replacement and repair, and we selected repair,” Hartzell said. “We hope to do that this fall. It depends on funding, but Rosina has done a great job of raising funds. Plus we have $50,000 in repair and replacement funds.”

Not counting the cost of JEO’s full engineering study, the bridge is expected to cost around $55,000 to repair, according to the preliminary estimate, Hartzell said.

All proceeds from the 2018 Run for the Bridges event will go toward repairing the “telephone bridge," Paolini said.

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