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New bridge spans Wilderness Park trail
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New bridge spans Wilderness Park trail

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Wilderness Park, a rugged 7-mile-long strip of trees, meadows and trails in southwest Lincoln, got a special delivery Monday.

A crane guided by workers from Stephens & Smith Construction gently lifted a 40-ton recreational trail bridge across Salt Creek and lowered it onto concrete abutments.

"This is a great day for the community," said Karl Schlitt, who with his wife, Rosina Paolini, volunteers to help maintain the park's trails.

They were part of a small group that tromped along muddy roads and trails to watch the iron and wood-decked bridge be placed just south of Pioneers Boulevard.

Workers had to cut down several trees so concrete trucks and materials could reach the construction site. The bridge should be ready for use in about three weeks.

"This new bridge will allow bikers to ride the bike trail that was made for them through the majority of the park," said Terry Genrich, assistant director of the City Parks and Recreation Department.

The 139-foot span replaces a bridge closed by the city in 2010 after an inspection found structural issues. The inspection was prompted by the collapse of another bridge in the park just north of Saltillo Road.

Former City Councilman Curt Donaldson did the conceptual design for the two former bridges, donating much of his time in designing and constructing the bridges.

Olsson Associates did the engineering work on the former bridges and in 2012 agreed to design a new bridge at no charge, provide about $122,000 toward its construction and provide as much as $47,600 in in-kind services.

The city has applied for a $250,000 grant through the Federal Highway Administration to help pay to replace the bridge near Saltillo Road, which will likely cost about $400,000. The project should be completed by December 2016. About $70,000 will come from the city's agreement with Olsson Associates; the city would contribute $50,000 and GPTN about $30,000.

The nonprofit group Friends of Wilderness Park is also helping, and Run for the Bridges has raised more than $38,000 since 2012 to help replace the bridges, said Paolini, one of the organizers.

This year's event, including a marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 1.8-mile kids run, will be March 14.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

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