Facility Profile - April 2002
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Bridging the Gap

Rocky Mount, N.C.

By Jeff Banowetz


Residents of Rocky Mount, N.C., had a variety of city parks to choose from when it came to recreation. But while the parks are all in close proximity, there wasn't a good way to get from one to another without taking city streets. Nearly 30 years ago, residents first proposed a greenway to promote access to all the city parks.

Now the plan is finally coming to fruition, and one of the most important parts of the project has become a centerpiece of the park system.

The idea was to connect the five major city parks with a 3.5-mile greenway path, which would give bikers, runners, walkers and hikers unfettered access to the parks and a substantial trail network to enjoy. In the way, though, was the Tar River, which need to be spanned in order to complete a major connection.

"We looked at a lot of options with the bridge," says Pete Armstrong, director of the parks and recreation department. "But we wanted to do something different. Someone asked if we had considered wood. Since it's a wooded setting, a wood bridge really fit in better with the setting."

In the end, they got what they wanted, and in the process created what is believed to be the longest clear-span laminated arch-suspension bridge manufactured in the United States.

EnWood Structures, LLC of Morrisville, N.C., was chosen to manufacture the wood bridge. The 60-year-old company specializes in vehicular and pedestrian bridges, but this was a unique project. The major components of the 220-foot by 14-foot bridge were pre-assembled and match-marked in EnWood's facility before it was shipped to Rocky Mount, making job-site assembly more efficient. This process saved money as well as time on installation.


"We were very impressed with how quickly it all came together," Armstrong says. "It was like a giant puzzle, with all the pieces laid out."

Funding for the project came from the National Transportation Enhancement Clearinghouse (also known as TEA21 funding), along with matching donations from the city. But Armstrong said that the costs of the wood structure weren't out of line with other options that they looked at.

"Our estimates showed that there really wasn't that much difference in cost," he says. "And we feel that we ended up with a very unique structure that fits into the environment."

The bridge was finished on Sept.17, and foot traffic was allowed over it late last year. The Parks and Recreation Department is hoping for an official grand opening sometime this spring.

"Rocky Mount is an unusual city, in that we're located in two counties," Armstrong says. Edgecombe and Nash Counties are divided by the railroad tracks that run through the middle of Main Street. "While this bridge doesn't technically connect the two counties, it symbolically links them. I think it really does a nice job of making that connection. We think this bridge will become a focal point for the community."

For more information
EnWood Structures: 800-777-8648
or visit www.enwood.com.