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Installation of new pedestrian bridge to link Lebanon trails

By Danita Cahill

For Lebanon Local

The sun burst through the clouds over Cheadle Lake on the morning of Monday, Dec. 10, seeming to send a celebratory smile down on a small group of volunteers, workers, walkers and onlookers who clustered around a crane and a flatbed truck loaded with a steel pedestrian bridge. 

The mood among the 14 or so adults, a few young children and two dogs was festive and anticipatory. 

Darcy Southard and her 21-month-old son, Lyle, paused to say hello to Bailey, a Yorkie-poo owned by John and Jerrianne Stolsig. Lyle brought along a bright-yellow toy front loader, just in case the men in hard hats needed a little help. 

The classic, clean-lined bridge with railing was designed by John Stolsig. It was built from a retired railroad flat car and painted nature-green. Fabrication took place in Lebanon at the Rick Franklin Corporation yard behind Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. 

The bridge weighs 40,000 pounds. 

“We worked on it the better part of a year,” Rick Franklin said. The project cost approximately $60,000, with Franklin paying for half the expense and Dr. Thad Nelson and his wife Joanne picking up the tab for the other half. 

“He really worked with us and kept the price down,” Nelson said of Franklin.

Forslund Crane Service, Inc., out of Albany, donated the crane and their services. As the crowd watched, the hard-hat men picked up the bridge, slowly swung it over and set it in place on top of two concrete pads, one on either side of the Santiam Canal between River Road and the north shore parking lot at Cheadle Lake. 

The bridge will be welded onto steel plates set into the concrete. A dedication ceremony will take place in the spring.

The footbridge project is part of a trail system created by Build Lebanon Trails, a non-profit organization whose focus is building and maintaining multi-use public trails in the community. 

The bridge will eventually connect the Cheadle Lake walking, hiking and bicycling path, known as the North Shore Trail, to a path along the Santiam at Riverview Park called the West River Trail,  by way of an easement along River Road.  The easement, donated by the Hill family, will lead outdoor enthusiasts to a safe crossing on a straight stretch across River Road. 

“My wife and I have seen this as a key link to the trail system,” Nelson said. Future plans include over 50 miles of trails. “You’ll be able to get on your bike and ride all over Lebanon.” 

Nelson said he, his wife and the other BLT volunteers, hope to have the trail system completed in two or three years. 

“If the city backs us on it, I think we can get the funds,” he added. 

The group of volunteers has worked at the project for 12 years so far. For them it isn’t just a labor of love; it’s also a legacy and a gift to pass on to others. 

“It’s all part of community health and quality of life,” Nelson said. “That bridge and these trails are going to be used for a hundred years.” 

To learn more about BLT, find a trail, or  to volunteer, visit  buildlebanontrails.com, write to Build Lebanon Trails, P.O. Box 2604, Lebanon, OR 97355, or find the group on Facebook.