POLK COUNTY -- Steve Jones of Dallas took an afternoon off from his job recently to lay concrete for the Friends of Ritner Creek Bridge and its partners.
The concrete will support engraved bricks purchased by supporters of Polk County's only covered bridge, and will be dedicated as part of a larger celebration beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 17.
The public is welcome to attend the celebration that will include live music, tours of park native plants, a look at the recent piling removal work, and, of course, the bricks.
Jones' volunteer work to improve the 1927 bridge and its county park is typical of the support for the historic structure. The Luckiamute Watershed Council, Polk Soil & Water Conservation District, Polk County Public Works Department and hundreds of donors, landowners, agencies, history buffs and students have pitched in to improve the bridge through the years.
Too narrow to support modern traffic, the bridge was moved in the 1970s from the Kings Valley Highway (Highway 223) to the adjacent park. Two years ago, complete restoration of the bridge was completed, ending threats that the dilapidated bridge would have to be torn down.
The covered bridge has been the site of weddings, community and private picnics, dances, mail drops, and escapes from Oregon's rain. Today, the scenic bridge is a stop for locals and visitors.
The Friends and other groups hope to maintain the restored bridge and its park through brick sales and other efforts.
Saturday afternoon's celebration begins with an official welcome and ribbon cutting to the engraved brick pathway, which includes the first 80 engraved bricks. The welcome will be followed by music from the bluegrass/old-timey group, "Homegrown." Music will continue off and on until 4 p.m.
At 3 p.m., Nathan Slaven of the Polk County Soil & Water Conservation District, and Michael Cairns, former contractor with the Luckiamute Watershed Council, will lead a tour around the bridge. The tour aims at giving local landowners ideas for projects on their lands that can help improve creeks that flow into the Luckiamute River.
Officials from the watershed council will be on hand to answer questions about projects, and Friends of Ritner Creek Bridge will be selling engraved bricks for future installation.
Those attending should be aware that parking is limited at the small park. Parking and ride sharing is available at Pedee Memorial Evangelical Church, about 1.5 miles north of the bridge on Kings Valley Highway.
For more information: Gail Oberst, 503-871-1242; www.luckiamutelwc.org.