The historic bridge that once crossed Turtle Creek in Augusta, Ky. has been relocated to Sandy Lee Watkins Park, located off of KY 351 near Hebbardsville, for preservation. The Sandy Watkins Park/Old Augusta-Turtle Creek Bridge has been placed and completed in the park. In the original location in Bracken County, the bridge was subject to flooding for it was near the Ohio River. The water was slowly deteriorating the bridge’s condition, so relocation was the best option to save the historic structure.
Photo by: AmyJo McMann
So what makes this bridge so special?
This Bowstring arch truss is one of the last two remaining in Kentucky. The date of construction is recorded as 1920, but historians believe that it was constructed much earlier since bowstrings were constructed mainly during the 1870s. The year 1920 could be symbolic for the year it was located to Turtle Creek or possibly just a total error. This bridge is believed to have been constructed by Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio and measured 60 feet long and 12 ft wide according to bridgehunter.com. In 2007 it went through a few reconstruction projects. Steel I-beams were placed above the bottom chord and a concrete deck was laid. The bridge was no longer capable of bearing such a heavy load of vehicle traffic due to long exposure to water. However, the top part of the bridge was still in tip-top shape. It did not pass crash tests though so it could not be repurposed for a bridge for motor vehicles.
Maybe it was fate or just chance, but at a conference a few years ago Bracken county Judge-Executive Earl Bush was seated next to Henderson County Engineer Bill Hubiak. Hubiak mentioned to Bush that park officials were in search of an old bow style iron bridge for a walking trail at a park. Bush replied that he had exactly what Henderson County was looking for. Bracken County Magistrate Clark Hennessey was grateful that the bridge was coming to Henderson and had a good home for he had invested about 40 years into the bridge.
The bridge was touched up in order to extend its life at Sandy Lee Watkins Park and make it safer for pedestrians crossing it. The original wood plank deck was replaced with newer whole wood planks. The wood was then pressure treated and sealed. A few of the bows on the bridge were bent or broken and those were also repaired but were not sandblasted down to smooth in order to preserve some originality in the bridge.
Photo by: Sarah Vittur
Is Sandy Lee Watkins Park worth my time?
The short answer is absolutely, 100% yes! This park officially dedicated in May 2017, is in honor of the late county judge-executive, Sandy Lee Watkins, who passed away in 2010. It was just surfaced coal mines in 2009, but the county bought about 500 acres of that land in 2010 which became Sandy Lee Watkins Park. In 2016 the county received a grant to start reforestation and thanks to the help of Louisville Gas and Electric Company, Kentucky Utilities Company, and an Eagle Scout named Drew Reid, more than 16,000 trees were planted on 25 acres. The park now offers 3 stocked fishing lakes and a fourth one is in the making. Sandy Lee Watkins Park also has an electric boat launch and is the perfect location to kayak or canoe.
Photo by: Chad Terell
There are walking trails and biking trails for those who prefer to stay on land too! That’s where the new bridge comes into play. It has been incorporated into the walking trails so that pedestrians can enjoy it and the bridge doesn’t have to bear heavy loads. The bridge now overlooks a creek that is sourced by the fishing lakes and is approximately 1.3 miles from the walking trail parking lot. The bridge is not far from Lake Davis’s boat dock. In fact, it connects Lake Davis to Lake Penn over a section called Lick Creek. The bridge also has offered visitors a beautiful setting for photography. Many people have chosen this magical and historical destination for pictures.