news-801030337-ar-0-0.jpg
Wimer citizens gather outside the Wimer Market to watch trusses lowered into place on the Wimer Covered Bridge. Jim Craven 1/2/2008 - Jim Craven

'Wimer bridge lives!'

A crane hoisted two 19,000-pound wooden trusses into place Wednesday, lifting the spirits of Wimer residents who have mourned the loss of their covered bridge for four years.

"Wimer Bridge lives!" they yelled.

The original 100-foot wooden structure, seven miles north of Rogue River, collapsed 40 feet into Evans Creek on July 6, 2003, because of rotting timbers and wear caused by vehicles heavier than the 6-ton limit. The collapse injured a grandfather and his two grandchildren.

Eased perfectly onto concrete supports, the new trusses, which provide the main structure for the bridge, symbolized the culmination of a four-year struggle to rebuild the span.

"They said we couldn't do it, and there's our bridge," said Crystal Gardens, a 68-year-old resident who helped spearhead the effort.

Timber Mountain Construction should complete the bridge by the end of January, though the paving could take a little longer, depending on weather.

The new trusses are reinforced with metal bracing that will be bolted to other parts of the structure.

"They're doing it piece by piece like an Erector Set," said Russ Logue, construction manager for the Jackson County Roads and Parks Department.

At a cost of $1.6 million, the structure will have a few modern materials, such as laminated beams that look like timbers and a special rubberized sealant under the asphalt deck to keep moisture away from the wood.

"I expect this bridge to stand for another 100 years easily," said Dan Roberts, chairman of the Citizens for Rebuilding the Wimer Covered Bridge.

Other concessions to modernity include new concrete approaches and man-made roofing material that simulates the look of wooden shakes but lasts 50 years and is more fire-resistant.

Roberts said that because federal funds were used to help rebuild the historic bridge, the main structure had to be made of timbers. The original width of the bridge — 17 feet — also had to be maintained to qualify for the special funding.

Much of the timber used in the construction was donated locally and treated with preservatives to make sure it lasts.

Local residents have been busy painting wooden planks that will form the covered part of the bridge.

"I'm still painting some of the boards," said Galem Kelm, a 64-year-old Wimer resident. He said 230 of the battens that will cover the planks on the outside of the bridge have been painted white, with only 100 left to go.

Gazing at the truss work, he said, "That went real well."

Roberts said the new bridge will look almost identical to the former bridge, though the historic designation will be lost. "We'll have to wait until January 2058 to be eligible for the historic designation again," he said.

The new bridge will have a weight limit of 10 tons, and Roberts believes there will be plenty of people who will make sure nobody exceeds that amount.

"A community that has spent four years building the bridge is a community full of watchful eyes," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story