September 27, 2018
The Bridges of Sparta
Posted by: Jennifer
The small town of Sparta is criss-crossed with many charming hand-built bridges. Sparta owes its bridges to a volunteer group known as “The Five Shovelmen.” Their mission is simple: to connect Sparta’s residents and help the city move toward a brighter, more accessible future. Each bridge is unique, with a character and design entirely its own. You can walk, jog, or ride across these bridges any of time year, making it the perfect way to see the city and get some exercise along the way. In winter, you can even snowmobile across them!
These bridges were constructed entirely by volunteers, and were supported by a core group now called “The Five Shovelmen”. Comprised of Jim Cook, Al Jenkins, Jerry Kast, Reinhard Mueller and Kerry Schumann, these men are very happy for the opportunity to improve Sparta infrastructure while increasing the attractiveness of their home community.
The Beaver Creek Bridge was the first bridge of the new era to be constructed in downtown Sparta. It was built in 2009 and helped to completely reinvigorate the surrounding community. Thanks to the bridge, the blighted neighborhood has markedly improved and now features a beautiful plaza that often hosts farmers markets and other fun local events. The bridge is a total of 48 feet long.
From Beaver Creek Bridge, head to the Ben Bikin Footbridge. Built in 2011, the Ben Bikin Park Footbridge is located just feet away from the iconic Ben Bikin statue, a 32-foot fiberglass structure widely considered Sparta’s official “mascot.” Sparta is the bicycling capital of the United States, so it only makes sense that we’d claim a cycling man as our town mascot. This truss bridge crosses the La Crosse river from Ben Bikin Park and helps to connect walkers and cyclists to the famous Elroy-Sparta Trail.
The Pointe Covered Bridge is located in Evans-Bosshard Park, a 6-acre park on the south side of the La Crosse River near East Avenue. Spanning 48 feet, this multiple king post truss bridge is one of the most beautiful covered bridges in all of Sparta. It includes a 14-foot suspended approach on each end for when the river water is especially high. Most of the bridge was completed in the winter of 2013, though final masonry details were added in the spring. While you’re there, keep a look out for the Bridging the Communication Gap sign in Evans-Bosshard Park, erected in 2015 in the style of the town’s many covered bridges.
The Mary Morrow Covered Bridge was built from 2013-2014 to replace the failing bridge that once stood in its place. It was quite an improvement! This quaint covered bridge is was built in the authentic Town Lattice style with real wooden treenails and stately stone columns. The bridge is 60 feet in length and 9 feet wide.
Located in Amundson Park, the Five Shovelmen Bridge commemorates the hardworking volunteers known as the Five Shovelmen, who helped to make Sparta a town of covered bridges. The design is a Modern bowstring through truss and is 238 feet in total length. This bridge has now connected Sparta with the La Crosse River Trail and the Elroy-Sparta Trail system. When US Silica is finished in the area this will be the gateway between Sparta and a new recreational area that will include beaches and campsites around Smith Lake.
Spend a day exploring Sparta’s quaint handbuilt bridges using the Self-Guided Tour and Map booklet available to guests on site at the Franklin Victorian Bed & Breakfast. You can also click here for more details about the bridges of Sparta. We hope you enjoy your walk!