The last remaining wooden bridge in Michigan
About 25 years ago now the state of Michigan decided, in all their infinite wisdom, they were going to replace all of the old wooden bridges on public roads with other structures OR do away with them completely. Most were old bridges over railroads that no longer are used so people, for the most part, had no problem with the bridges being removed. One woman had a ‘problem’ with one particular bridge being removed. That woman was my mother.
Mom waged a campaign locally and with the state to keep the wooden bridge standing about a mile from where I live. Not only did the bridge have a lot of history locally and through the railroad but it also had a lot of history for families that live here. Mom was on a mission to rescue the bridge that you see in the pic up there taken by my friend Ed a couple of years ago. Obviously she was successful rescuing it but her approach was interesting and I have to admit I was sure she would fail. I was sure she was going about it all wrong, but she was determined – she’d either save the bridge or she’d save the family histories as a tribute to the bridge.
She started by writing a letter to the editor in the local paper asking the community to send her their family history related to the bridge. She knew our family’s history with the bridge but she didn’t know how many other families in the area had a similar family history with the bridge, so she asked. While she was waiting for those stories to be delivered by the post office she went to the historical society and researched the history of it from the railroad days. She discovered that the first bridge in that location had burned due to sparks from a train a couple of years after it was built and “our bridge” was a replacement for that bridge. Her intent was to save family histories from around the area as a tribute to the bridge… or to save the bridge using the historical information she compiled. She did both.
When all the letters started coming in from families around the area, and as far away as Switzerland, she sat down and compiled a list of all the family events that had taken place over the course of almost 100 years ON that bridge. There were dozens of weddings, thousands of prom and senior pictures, thousands of picnics, a couple hundred proposals, about a dozen kids conceived and I cannot remember what all else. Suffice it to say, there was a LOT of activity related on that bridge that people couldn’t know or wouldn’t know if they didn’t have the family connections to the area and to the bridge. History she felt needed to be preserved so she gave the letters and photos over the years to the county Historical Society when she was done using it.
After that she wrote letters, a lot of letters, to the governor, to legislators on both sides of the political spectrum, to television news programs, to literally anyone she thought could help preserve the bridge or publicize her fight to preserve it. It took her a couple of years but the state decided they would repair that bridge and leave it alone. She’d “won” the fight to keep the bridge although funding for the bridge would take a few more years to be appropriated.
She passed away before that funding was appropriated. The county, in their infinite wisdom, put up a plaque telling “the world” about my mother’s fight to save the bridge. You have to look for it because of all of the shrubs around the base of it but there IS a brass plaque there with my mother’s name on it as a tribute to the woman who saved the bridge.
It’s the last wooden bridge on a public road in the state. LIVES are still LIVED on and around that bridge. Pictures taken, picnics happening, children biking, running and laughing on the trail under the bridge, proposals happening on the bridge. Heck there may have been a few more kids conceived on that bridge. Mom is buried about half a mile away from the bridge. I think she’d be pleased. I know I smile every time I drive over that bridge. I bet a lot of other people do too, well, so long as they don’t work for the road commission – it’s a bit narrow for the trucks.
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