“Everyone heard that the bridge was going to be taken away because there were no funds to fix it,” Micheau said.
The county-owned bridge has been closed to vehicle traffic since 2004, and while county officials have floated ideas of restoration or demolition for several years, no official decision has been made, Washington County Engineer Jacob Thorius said.
The most recent estimates by Washington County officials place the cost of demolition at more than $80,000, while building an entirely new bridge could cost upwards of $2 million. With Highway 1 crossing the English River only a mile west, local officials aren’t likely to replace the bridge if demolished.
Thorius said the Washington County Board of Supervisors is awaiting proposals from the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge and North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, a Grinnell-based group that works to save bridges across the state.
“Long term the responsibility for the bridge, I think, is the ultimate issue that the county is trying to figure out and answer right now,” Thorius said.
Thorius said it’s not unheard of for the county to sell a closed bridge to an interested party or nearby landowner at a low cost.
“If somebody were to buy the bridge and be the owner, in my opinion, they would be ultimately responsible for everything in regards to the bridge,” Thorius said.
Members of Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge assured the Washington County Board of Supervisors during a recent meeting that if the group buys or leases the bridge, the organization would assume full responsibility for it and supply comprehensive liability insurance. The board has directed county staff to review the proposal from the organization and group members planned to meet with property owners involved in the project.
One reason the Bunker Mill Bridge, also called Old River Bridge, is so desirable to area residents as well as Kalona and Washington County officials is its inclusion in the Bunker Mill Trail plan, which would connect Kalona and nearby Richmond. About 95 percent of the Bunker Mill Trail’s design has been completed.