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Stark County Park Board adopts historic bridge to rest at fairgrounds

Recently, the Stark County Park Board extracted a bridge that was no longer operable, and placed it at the Stark County Fairgrounds as a way for pedestrians, equestrians, alike to get across to the other side of the site.

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A historic bridge rests on top of a creek channel at the Stark County Fairgrounds. The bridge was adopted by the Stark County Park Board as a way to reuse the bridge that was no longer operable by vehicle traffic. Several Stark County contractors and the Stark County Road Department helped facilitate the move from northeast of Dickinson to the fairgrounds on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (Contributed / Lisa Heiser)
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A historic bridge will now be the connector to future recreational sites at the Stark County Fairgrounds following the adoption of the old structure and the placement at its final resting ground.

The Stark County Park Board and Road Department along with several local contractors and businesses helped place the bridge at its new location near the grandstand of the fairgrounds Thursday, Nov. 4.

For Stark County Park Director Lisa Heiser, the bridge will serve as a connection piece to the fairgrounds, as it will tie in with the future dog park and shooting range area that is potentially planned for the east side of the facility. The bridge will also link travel across the creek for equestrians, pedestrians, bicyclists, dog walkers and Side-by-Sides motorists. Vehicles, however, will not be permitted.

“Since the leveling of the hill by Stark County contractors, we’ve been blessed to have this historic bridge that now connects two portions of the fairgrounds property and provides us a way to move forward with another step in the Master Plan, which includes a walking/riding path around the entire facility,” Lisa Heiser said.

The process of leveling out the landing for the bridge took a couple of days, Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said. From there, it required a 200-ton crane to carry the bridge and get it squared up on the foundation. Due to its extensive weight, the planks had to be disassembled for the crane to transfer it over, he added.

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Along with the Stark County Road Department, several county contractors and businesses played a role in this bridge placement, including Schwartz Construction, Martin Construction, Fisher Industries, Hlebechuk Construction, Consolidated, Extreme Underground, West Dakota Oil, Creative Energy, Southwest Grain and Black Hills Trucking.

“It was quite interesting to watch these guys work. But they did a good job and it looks very professional and it’s going to do the trick for holding this bridge for a lot of years to come,” Lisa Heiser said.

The bridge is listed on the National Registry of Historic Bridges, Al Heiser said, noting that if the Stark County Park Board hadn’t facilitated this bridge adoption, it would have been torn down and cut up into pieces to be tossed away in a scrapyard.

“I really think it's a piece of history and I think they're a unique type of bridge and once they're all gone, then they're gone… It'll create a lot of conversations,” he said, adding that people will wonder where the bridge came from and admire the pristine condition it’s in.

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A 200-ton crane resets an old bridge onto concrete platform at the Stark County Fairgrounds Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (Contributed / Lisa Heiser)

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Originally, the bridge was located on 109th Street, approximately 5 miles northeast of Dickinson in the country. Due to the bridge’s narrow width of 20 feet, it proved to be difficult for heavy equipment operators to get across, which resulted in the Stark County Road Department replacing it with a concrete bridge, Al Heiser added.

Before former City Administrator Shawn Kessel departed from Dickinson in 2018, he had a vision for the old bridge, Al Heiser said, adding that it was relocated to the fire training station. However, after Kessel’s departure from the City of Dickinson, the bridge was not being utilized, which left many Stark County officials brainstorming on how they could repurpose the historic structure.

“After we moved all that dirt at the fairgrounds, we thought, ‘God, that’d be nice to put this old historic bridge across that,’” Al Heiser said. “We actually made like a quick channel in there and I thought it’d be nice to preserve it too, because there’s not a lot of them old bridges around once they’re taken down. Usually they’re chopped up and sent to the scrap iron pile.”

About a year ago, the Stark County Park Board purchased the bridge from the City of Dickinson for $2,600 and decided it would be best fitted near the waterway that was located on the fairgrounds site. After local contractors moved approximately 380,000-cubic yards of dirt to allow for hill leveling to take place, the creek channel is now approximately more than 20 feet higher than what it was originally, Lisa Heiser said, adding it will allow the fairgrounds to move forward with its second phase of its Master Plan.

Though it is not exact, the bridge is estimated to be approximately 80 years old, having been built around the 1940s or so, Al Heiser said, noting that there is only one bridge left of its kind in Stark County — which is located behind the old Husky Dominion Briquetting Plant and is still in use today.

“... It'll make a way to get to the dog park and the walking trail and stuff because that channel runs all the way through there. That creek will never run a lot of water, but at times there will be water in there. And I think it's kind of a cool old bridge,” Al Heiser added.

Once the planks are added to the deck, the community will have the opportunity to be involved in naming the bridge, Lisa Heiser said.

Looking ahead, Lisa Heiser noted that the Stark County Park Board is continuing to look at an indoor arena at the fairgrounds site, which requires them to raise approximately $2.9 million. So far, the board has secured a $500,000 sponsor with Dakota Community Bank and is working to lock in more sponsors. Two public meetings regarding the Master Plan for the Stark County Fairgrounds will be held before the end of year, so people will be able to provide their input to the park board.

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Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on rural communities and government, agriculture & Ranch. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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