A postcard image of the bridge the county wants to replace.
A postcard image of the bridge the county wants to replace.

Public meeting tonight will discuss replacing historic Lake Park bridge

According to a post by the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood (HWTN), Milwaukee County is considering solutions to deal with the condition of the more than 100-year-old concrete arch footbridge over Ravine Road.

Among the alternatives being explored are repairing the concrete bridge, which was designed by Ferry & Clas (The Pabst Mansion, Central Library) and constructed in 1905-06; recreating the bridge with new construction based on the current span; replacing the bridge with a modern steel bridge; and, rather unbelievably, tearing down the bridge and not replacing it at all, thereby removing a key connector of the portions of the park to the north and south of Ravine Road.

A public meeting to discuss the issue will be held today, Thursday, Oct. 15, at O'Donnell Park's Miller Brewing Room, 910 E. Michigan St., from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

A 1986 book, "Historic Highway Bridges in Wisconsin, Vol. 1, Stone and Concrete-Arch Bridges," called the bridge, "an advanced and innovative work of reinforced-concrete bridge engineering" and "one of the earliest extant reinforced-concrete arches in Wisconsin."

Earlier this month, HWTN expressed its opposition to the modern steel replacement – and that final option of demolition without replacement – by passing a resolution that said:

"The Historic Water Tower Neighborhood opposes replacing the historic Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road in Lake Park with a prefabricated steel truss bridge or any other architectural style different from the current bridge. We also oppose simply demolishing the bridge. HWTN encourages the county to consider and act promptly on the other two alternatives outlined in the July 2015 inspection report on the bridge – either repairing the current bridge or replacing it with a new reinforced concrete arch bridge that matches the dimensions and aesthetic and architectural features of the current bridge."

You can have your say on the matter at today's meeting, and by contacting County Executive Chris Abele's office.

Personally, I'd like to see Ferry & Clas' original bridge repaired, rather than replaced with a modern version or a modern copy. And if it's too far gone for that, I'd ask why the bridge's condition has deteriorated to such a point, despite 2001 City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Guidelines for the North Point North neighborhood that say that in Lake Park, "every attempt should be made to maintain the historic vehicular and pedestrian circulation system in the park including drives, paths, stairways and bridges."

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