The Ottumwa Courier

July 30, 2013

Swingin' right along

Courier staff writer

---- — FAIRFIELD — Thousands of children have walked across the swinging bridge in the Jefferson County Park. This 30-year-old landmark has been through a lot over the years, but now it has new life thanks to countless donors and volunteers.

In 1983, while building a trail from the picnic area to the campgrounds, it became apparent that the park needed a bridge to traverse the many creeks. Ebb Camelin offered the idea of a swinging bridge like the one he had seen in Columbus Junction. It would just need to be on a smaller scale.

Thirty years later, the original post remains, but the modern, updated swinging bridge has just completed its third makeover. Following in the footsteps of two special people, Camelin and Ali Moradi, Shawn Morrissey and Bob Leazer have been working on the bridge for the last year.

At the dedication ceremony Tuesday, Dennis Lewiston, park director, explained that the report came in two years ago that the bridge was on its last legs. It was either tear it down or fix it up.

"This is a landmark in the park," he said. "So many people said, 'I want to spend money to help. When I was a little kid, I remember that bridge.' It has special meaning, and it's still here. I hope people enjoy it."

And so the fundraising began. Park Board member Kathy Tollenaere was willing to put her heart and soul into fundraising, and it paid off, literally. Through T-shirt sales, knocking on doors and meeting with service clubs, $10,000 was raised.

"And we spent all but a couple hundred of that," Lewiston said.

While it may seem like just another bridge to some, the swinging bridge has a much more important meaning.

"Here in Jefferson County, this bridge is for the community by the community," Tollenaere said. "I'm so proud of our community for doing this. It's an asset to Fairfield and the local community."