Clarke Morrison - Asheville Citizen-Times
ASHEVILLE -- The completion of an unusual bridge allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross a creek that feeds into the French Broad River also provides a crucial link in the future Wilma Dykeman greenway.
Ten students of architecture, planning and building science designed and constructed the bridge connecting Jean Webb Park to a piece of city-owned property off Riverside Drive, said Chris Joyell, executive director of the Asheville Design Center.
"We wanted to create a unique structure, something that would make people really sit up and take notice," he said. "It serves as more than just a bridge. We feel it's a real destination in and of itself."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. today to officially open the bridge.
Joyell said city officials approached the Design Center in February about designing and building the bridge. Through its DesignBuild Studio program, the center recruited students from across the country for the project under the direction of instructor Luke Perry.
"They came in and we basically posed the challenge to them that we had this 20-foot-wide ravine to cross," Joyell said. "This bridge represents the first piece of infrastructure for the Wilma Dykeman greenway."
The bridge measures 40 feet by 18 feet and incorporates four steel beams and handrails milled from locust trees cut down at the site.
"There's a beautiful bench built into the bridge," he said. "People can sit and take in the river view. It's reflective of the artistic talent that we find throughout the River Arts District."
Joyell said one of the biggest challenges in building the bridge was a state Department of Transportation requirement that it be able to accommodate a 6-ton ambulance for responding to emergency medical issues on the greenway.
"We had to build a fully engineered bridge," he said. "That kind of raised the bar for the class."
After it was finished, the bridge sat in the Jean Webb Park parking lot for two months until an encroachment agreement was reached with DOT allowing the pouring of footers for the structure. Two weeks ago a crane lifted the 10-ton bridge and lowered it into onto the footers.
"Now it's in its final resting place," he said.
The city provided $25,000 in funding. The free labor, design work and donated materials allowed the construction of a bridge valued at an estimated $125,000, Joyell said.
"That's a five-time rate of return on investment," he said.