An artistic footbridge in Hailey spanning the Big Wood River is in place. The latest link to the river will be introduced to the community at an unveiling planned for Saturday, Oct. 6.
The bridge is already expanding appreciation for the town’s calming riparian area as curious visitors to the site watch the gradual installation of numerous finishing touches, including bronze bowstring loops, yet to be installed.
The Bow Bridge of the Big Wood was designed by artist and competitive archer Leslie Howa, who also coordinated construction under direction of an anonymous donor. The structure depicts a “recurve” bow with tips that curve away from the archer when the bow is strung.
“It’s as if the bow was dropped from the sky string-side down,” Howa said in an interview at the bridge, as landscapers sculpted a new path to Lion’s Park on the west side of the Big Wood River on Friday. “This is the cherry on the cake of a 10-year project for the Wood River Land Trust. It will become a go-to destination. That’s the gravitas—the whole importance.”
Inspiration for the design and name of the bridge comes from Howa’s passion for archery and the Native American history of the area, said Trey Spaulding, director of operations for the Land Trust. Spaulding said the Bow Bridge has a 160-foot span across the Big Wood River and “it completes a long-awaited connection of the Wood River Land Trust’s Draper Preserve, which lies on both sides of the river.”
Executive Director Scott Boettger, who began looking at the compromised stretch of Hailey’s river corridor to find a way to restore it over a decade ago, agreed.
“The river had been straightened to reduce flooding in [the] China Gardens [neighborhood],” he said. “The [former] oxbow had been filled with 80 years of trash and became the Lion’s Park ballfield. Fortunately, it was pre-solvents and other toxins.”
Boettger said 600 cubic yards of material have been sifted out of the former dump area by the bridge, with 90 percent of the inert materials being used for restoration, including the path to the bridge currently under construction. He said just 60 cubic yards of concrete chunks and other rubble, or 10 percent of the total debris, had to be taken to the dump. The new makeup of soils is intended to promote native plants and increase wildlife habitat.
“It increases the diversity of habitats in a lush corridor of a riparian zone,” he said. “The donor recognized that the more people you get down there, the more it will be protected.”
In 2002, with help from the city, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Land Trust began to restore the eroding riverbank at Lion’s Park.
“This has been the missing piece of the greenway that connects Lion’s Park [on the west side of the river] to Heagle Park [on the east side of the river],” Howa said.
The Oct. 6 community celebration of the bridge, to be hosted by the Land Trust, will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will include a 5K fun run, archery demonstration, kids’ face painting, live music and free lunch. Registration for the fun run will take place at FitWorks at the Blaine County Recreation District office at the Community Campus on Friday, Oct. 5, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The first 50 registrants will receive a free Sigg water bottle valued at $20. The bottles feature an illustration of the Bow Bridge.
The Bow Bridge of the Big Wood was constructed by Western Wood Structures, located in Tualatin, Ore., in conjunction with numerous local businesses, including Galena Engineering, K&M Construction, Taylor Made Woodworks and Rocky Mountain Hardware.