Miami County, Ohio Suspension Bridge Opens

May 11, 2021

The wood bridge, which connects Stillwater Prairie Reserve and Maple Ridge, is believed to be among the longest in the state of Ohio

UPDATED - May 11, 2021: New Photos

It is easy to forget in our coverage of bridges and bridge building that some of the most used and useful structures don't "bridge" roadways at all.

The Miami County Park District recently hosted the official opening of the Stillwater Prairie Connector Bridge, which connects Stillwater Prairie Reserve with Maple Ridge.

The Miami County Park District contracted with Woolpert to provide bridge design, survey, hydraulic engineering and construction assistance. Miami County Park District Executive Director J. Scott Myers said the district secured a grant to purchase 50 acres adjacent to the Stillwater River and needed the bridge to provide a connection between these two parks, which are divided by the river. He said the district elected to build a suspension bridge because it was more in line with the adventurous spirit of the park setting.

“These types of bridges just naturally fit, blending seamlessly into the park—a regular bridge is just not as fun,” Myers said. “With this Stillwater bridge, you don’t see it until you’re on top of it. When the wood weathers, it will look like it has always been there.”

The Stillwater Prairie Connector Bridge is 170 ft long and has a 32-in.-wide deck with 42-in.-high netting. Woolpert Project Manager Nathan Fischer said it is believed to be one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the county and possibly the state, although record-keeping for these types of bridges is not precise.

“Suspension bridges breed a different level of excitement because you can feel them moving as you cross them, and they take a specific skillset to execute well,” Fischer said. “We’ve been doing more of these bridges at Woolpert and taking road and bridge design to the next level—from timber bridges to cable bridges to roadway bridges, ranging from the simple to the extremely complex. I am constantly impressed by the depth and breadth of the work that we do, and how extremely deep our bench is.”

In 2019, Woolpert and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources won an Association for Bridge Construction and Design award for their Hemlock Pedestrian Bridge in Hocking Hills State Park. The bridge was inspired by the one featured in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” The company also designed the Mohican Cable Pedestrian Bridge at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio, which is slated to open later this month.

Structural Design Team Leader Tom Less said there are many layers of calculations involved in the design and construction of suspension bridges. Due to its length, the Stillwater Prairie Connector Bridge initiated an extensive construction-stage analysis of its catenary curve.

“We were able to replicate in math what we were seeing in the field to ensure the bridge was progressing according to plan, which was a comfort for the contractor, Brumbaugh Construction, and the park district,” Less said. “Brumbaugh was resourceful and showed great ingenuity throughout the project, rigging a sled that slid under the bridge so they would have a platform to work from while avoiding impacts to the river. It’s one thing to design a bridge, and it’s another to figure out how you’re going to put all the pieces together. This one had a lot of pieces.”

Less added that, in addition to the initial design complexity, Woolpert and Brumbaugh worked together to find solutions when COVID-related supply chain issues arose. Myers said the parks system was confident that Woolpert would be able to answer any questions that came up. He said he is very happy with how the Stillwater Prairie Connector Bridge turned out and how it aligns with the unique features throughout the district.

“Our parks system has multiple types of parks, from the limestone-based, 37-ft waterfall at Charleston Falls to the deep ravines heading down to the Stillwater River at Maple Ridge,” Myers said. “Everybody in Miami County has their favorite park, and we appreciate the support of our local citizens through levies, programs and by visiting the parks. We actually set visitation records in each of the last two years, cracking one million visitors in 2019 and 2020. Hopefully, 2021 will be our best year yet.”


Photo source: Woolpert