By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
On June 21, the sixth annual “Evening on the Bridge” was held on the Hale Bridge at the Wapsipinicon State Park outside of Anamosa. The Hale Bridge was relocated to this site on March 8, 2006.
In the March 8, 2006, issue of the Monticello Express, then-Editor David Lee said the bridge would be airlifted “today as Chinook helicopters will carry the three-section bridge section-by-section from Hale to Wapsi State Park.” Designated viewing areas for the event were set up ahead of time, with shuttle services being offered at the Anamosa sports complex and Lawrence Community Center. It was announced that all roads into the park would be closed for safety reasons.
After the March 8 airlift, the Express had full coverage of the event in the March 15, 2006, issue. What took four years of planning was now a reality, after only two hours of flight time. The 127-year-old bridge was carried by Chinook helicopters and the Iowa National Guard to its new location in the park. The bridge was carried in three sections. Lieutenant Greg Hapgood, Iowa National Guard, said the airlift went flawless with countless hours spent on preparation.
With three spans, two of the sections were 85 feet long, one was 100 feet long. The 85-foot sections weighed 16,500 pounds each and the 100-foot section weighed 19,600 pounds. The Chinook helicopters can only carry up to 20,000 pounds. The helicopters carried enough fuel for one mission each and had to be refueled after each airlift, to help lessen the load.
For the major event, local schools in Jones County bused students to the park to watch history in the making. The History Channel televised a special called “Mega Movers,” highlighting the Hale Bridge relocation.
The Hale Bridge was part of a planned trail system through Wapsi Park. This major project cost around $445,000 to accomplish. A lot of grants were given towards the project, as well as private donations from individuals and organizations.
The first “Evening on the Bridge” was held in the summer of 2006 on the new Hale Bridge site. Each year, this event is coordinated through the Jones County Historical Preservation Commission, the Iowa DNR and the Natural and Cultural Heritage Foundation of Jones County.
Rose Rohr, with the Preservation Commission, said they wanted to come up with an idea to show off and save the Hale Bridge.
“We wanted to utilize the historic structure,” said Rohr.
Rohr explained it was a coordinated effort by the above three entities, as well as several of the Jones County Board of Supervisors at the time: Andy McKean and Merlin Moore.
“We also took on the DNR as a partner,” said Rohr, who helps maintain the Hale Bridge. Rohr said the bridge no longer belongs to the county, but belongs to the DNR.
With the bridge in a natural park setting, Rohr and the Natural and Cultural Heritage Foundation are working on having Wapsi Park named to the National Register of Historic Places. Rohr said this would be the first time an entire park was added to the list.
In saving the bridge itself, the state historical society contacted Rohr about the idea.
“I thought they were kidding when they asked if this would be something I would want to do,” said Rohr. After connecting with the county and other people willing to help in the efforts and who believed in historical preservation, the wheel began to turn.
Each year, people return to the Hale Bridge dinner, bringing with them friends and family, exposing them to a unique opportunity. Daly Creek Winery in Anamosa caters the event and supplies a variety of wines.
“It’s an elegant affair,” said Rohr.
Table decorations are provided each year by Cecilia Hatcher of Anamosa. The classical string music really sets the mood, provided by John Schultz and Taki Horuichi this year. Rohr said Schultz has entertained the crowd for five years now, always providing new arrangements.
This year, 118 people attended, a record amount.
With so many repeat guests, everyone agreed that this is a one-of-a-kind experience worth checking out.
“This is a wonderful event that few people know about,” said Connie Shover.
The Naylor family makes this an annual family dinner, covering multiple generations.
Andy McKean, a long time supporter from the start, said an event like this draws many people to Jones County. “This sets us apart,” he said.
With people coming to the Hale Bridge event from Cascade and Tipton, they all agreed that the bridge and the park are a “beautiful resource to this area.”
Locals have the same sentiments. Bob and Charlene George from Anamosa said, “This is a good cause.” Many in attendance were also at this same site on March 8, 2006, when the bridge was brought to its current location.
Dave and Deanna Butterworth, Anamosa, always make reservations well in advance and make sure to clear the date on their calendars each year. In fact, this year, they just flew in from Las Vegas to be here in time.
“Evening on the Bridge” takes place on the third Thursday in June each year, weather permitting. The money from the event goes towards the upkeep of Hale Bridge.
PHOTOS: Top: The sixth annual “Evening on the Bridge” took place on June 21 on Hale Bridge at Wapsipinicon State Park outside of Anamosa. This year, there were 118 people in attendance for the event. (Photo by Kim Brooks) Middle: Taki Horuichi, left, and John Schultz provided the string music during “Evening on the Bridge.” This was Schultz’s fifth time entertaining the crowd. (Photo by Kim Brooks) Bottom: One of the Hale Bridge spans in flight. This was taken from a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter that accompanied the Chinook on its transport on March 8, 2006. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa National Guard)