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Structural Integrity

Historic stone arch culvert
to be revitalized for Heritage Trail

Condition assessment study
says culvert is re-usable

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

(March 2012) – The search may finally be over for a permanent bridge that will allow the Heritage Trail of Madison to cross Crooked Creek – and the solution has been there all along. Proper restoration and continued preservation could revitalize the existing 1846 stone arch culvert and provide a cost-effective, yet aesthetically pleasing, bridge over the creek, according to a condition assessment reported conducted on the historic structure.
“The historic culvert is an amenity Madison should be proud of,” said Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Director Greg Sekula. “Revitalization and reuse of the structure marries historic preservation with parks and recreation development. It only adds to the historic legacy of the community.”
In 2006, more than 130 blocks of downtown Madison, Ind., were designated a National Landmark District by the National Park Service.
The Madison Railroad Inc. maintains the rights to the structure, so final authority and approval for a permanent easement for the trail over the culvert will rest with the city of Madison and railroad officials, according to Heritage Trail Conservancy President Bob Greene. Previously, Madison Railroad officials had hoped the Heritage Trail could access another source for crossing the creek, although they continued to graciously allow users of the trail to cross over the stone arch culvert. The structure, which provides flood plain control, remains an important prevention against flooding for the city of Madison.

Stone Arch Bridge

Photo courtesy of Laura Renwick,
Indiana Landmarks


Heritage Trail Conservancy board
members have fought to salvage
and preserve this historic stone arch
bridge over Crooked Creek as
opposed to replacing it with
a contemporary structure.

For years, Greene and other Heritage Trail Conservancy members had searched for just the right structure. In the recent past, a historic, iron truss bridge currently dismantled and stored in a quarry in Midway, Ind., was considered. But estimates for construction and placement of the bridge were found to be prohibitive, said Greene.
“In an era where the public insists on the practice of financial austerity by city leaders, the adaptive re-use of this historically important structure is more cost effective and makes far more sense than plans to bring in another structure.”
He said at this phase of the initiative, a body of information from top experts is being compiled and a strategic plan is being shaped. “We are continuously searching for funding and, hopefully, local sources will step forward as they have since the inception of the project,” he said.
The idea for the Heritage Trail was conceived in 1995 as a result of a Total Quality of Life Initiative and a grassroots committee of interested citizens. Those efforts paid off in 2002 when the city of Madison was awarded a $1 million Transportation Enhancement Grant from the federal highway department to develop the Heritage Trail of Madison. INDOT oversees the administration of those funds.
In 2011, Indiana Landmarks awarded the Heritage Trail Conservancy a $2,000 grant to help with a $4,500 conditions assessment study on the stone arch culvert to see if the structure was safe and appropriate for use as a possible permanent bridge for the Heritage Trail. Dr. Jim Adams, a retired University of Toledo, Ohio, professor of geology, was hired as an expert consultant for the project.
“It should be considered as a coup for the community to attract the quality of historic structures specialist as Adams,” said Greene. “He is renown in his field.”
Adams, who has an extensive background in historic architecture, geology and chemistry, agreed to head the conditions assessment study and has since become enamored of the stone culvert.
“Usually, I do an assessment, turn in the report and never see the ending of the project,” he said in a telephone interview. “I have agreed to see this through in its entirety because I believe the project could have lasting positive impact on the community.”
According to Adams, the assessment found the stone arch culvert is in “fair to good” condition. “There are some preferential spots that need attention immediately in order to stop further deterioration of the stones and the surrounding embankment. Having a walkway over it will help stabilize the culvert, allow people access to the Heritage Trail and will offer unique learning opportunities for local students of historic preservation. The project is very doable.”
The original culvert was built with a wooden trestle across the flood plain of Crooked Creek during the construction of the railroad incline in the 1840s. There was a massive flood that was so powerful, debris plugged up the culvert. Water pressure broke loose the debris and a scouring action occurred in which the turbulence sucked stones of the walls and water backed up and flooded the city, killing people and doing massive damage.
The culvert was rebuilt; however, the original wood trestle was left in place. After a century and a half, the wood of the original trestle has rotted and seeping water has begun to cause damage to the culvert and the surrounding embankment. Salts and other manmade interventions have also negatively affected the structure and soil of the area.
“It has been a slow process of deterioration, but it can be stabilized,” said Adams. “The culvert is still an important safety device to protect the city of Madison from flooding. Preservation of the culvert would include bank stabilization and repair of the stone with appropriate historic methods.”
He believes the community could benefit in a two-fold manner by working with Ivy Tech Community College students and experts who participate in the Historic Preservation Program.
“Getting the community and the college involved would build a local group of experts skilled in maintaining the structure, garner interest by local people in the project and provide a hands-on workshop for talent and expertise to be acquired,” he said. “It would also be instrumental in the financial cost of maintaining the project.”
Sekula agreed with the conditions assessment report finalized by Adams. “With appropriate restoration and continued preservation, the stone culvert is worthy of rehabilitation at a fraction of the cost of a new structure over the creek.”

• For more information about the Heritage Trail of Madison or the Heritage Trail Conservancy, visit www.HeritageTrailConservancy.com.

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