By Pam Zubeck
America the Beautiful Park stands to lose 25 mature trees for the sake of the 250-footlong pedestrian bridge from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.
One of a pair of fountains at the entrance to the park also will be sacrificed for the $18.7 million bridge project, according to city officials.
Designed by New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, architect for the $90 million museum, the bridge connects to the public park, which will be flanked on its east side by residential, retail and office space planned by the area’s biggest developer, Nor’wood Development Group.
But take heart, the trees that will succumb to the bridge installation will be replaced, city spokesperson Vanessa Zink said.
Plans for a pedestrian bridge connecting the Pikes Peak Greenway with downtown popped up in planning documents as early as the 1980s and jelled after the park was built in 2005.
In 2013, the bridge project became part of the Springs’ City for Champions (C4C) tourism venture — a series of venues partially funded by the state that includes the museum. The bridge will dock on the east with the museum and on the west with America the Beautiful Park.
But for Kiewit Infrastructure to heave the bridge into place, something has to go — and that includes 25 mature trees in the park and along Cimino Drive and a few light poles as well. Both fountains that mark the park entrance will also be removed. One hasn’t worked for 10 years, but another will be replaced. (The massive Julie Penrose Fountain is unaffected by the project.)
Here’s how the bridge will be assembled and installed, according to Zink.
“The pedestrian bridge contractor will assemble the pedestrian bridge in the gravel parking lot opposite of the entrance to America the Beautiful Park. Due to the structure type and the railroad requirement to limit the impact to their operations, the bridge will more or less be finished in the gravel parking lot,” she said in an email. “Once complete, tractors will lift each end of the bridge and rotate it from a north/south configuration to an east/ west configuration, then drive it across the railroad tracks and place it on the abutments. The bridge will weigh well over a million pounds when it’s moved, and the tractors will need a level and stable pad to rotate the bridge and drive it into place.”
The Olympic and Paralympic Museum is due to open in late May, while the bridge’s construction will extend through summer.
Trees and light poles tagged for removal are marked with blue ribbons. Zink said the deciduous trees on the earthen mound are pear trees, and the others are white oak. Evergreen trees marked for removal are blue spruce.
After the bridge project is completed, the trees and landscaping will be replaced. “Unfortunately,” Zink noted, “the trees are not suitable for being preserved for replanting, so they will be replaced with younger trees of the same species… . The mound will be replaced and trees and shrubs replanted, but the non-functioning fountain will not be replaced.”