By Emily Williams
On the morning of Jan. 4, Mountain Brook city officials gathered at the new Jemison Park Pedestrian Bridge to cut the ribbon on a project that has been three years in the making.
Mayor Stewart Welch said that when he first saw the bridge taking shape, he thought it looked unnecessarily high, but nearly a week’s worth of rain and flooding of Shades Creek made it clear that the height was necessary.
Virginia C. Smith, Mountain Brook City Council president, said Jemison Park Nature Trail is “loved by many and used by thousands.”
“Now, thanks to the new pedestrian bridge, our trail is accessible to all,” she said.
Smith said she was glad the plans kept the stepping stones that allow visitors to cross the creek.
“We all know their limitations in providing a safe connection between one end of the park and the other. Today that connection is in place with this bridge,” Smith said.
On the day of the ribbon cutting, the stepping stones weren’t visible because of high waters. It was such flooding that caused issues for those in charge of engineering the bridge and that made for a lengthy building process.
“This whole project started almost three years ago, in May of 2016, when Kathryn Harbert came to me with a vision and an idea, a notion, that she said Jemison Park needs a bridge across the creek so that mothers, those in wheelchairs, grandmothers and others that don’t feel comfortable going across the stones to get to the other side (can use it),” said Billy Pritchard, council president pro tempore.
Over the next three years, plans were made and then redrawn, other locations were considered, and many people pitched in to help make the bridge a reality, according to Pritchard.
“A lot of work was done to try to figure out how you could engineer a bridge here that would survive floods,” Pritchard said. “That went on for quite a period of time and, fortunately, Dick Shea (of Morris-Shea Bridge Company) stepped in with his expertise as a master bridgebuilder.”
Shea spoke about the many hurdles he, his wife and his son faced making sure the bridge not only worked for the area, but also looked great and was visually consistent with the city’s standards.
“It’s been a lot of fun building,” Shea said. “I was shocked at the number of people who really use it. So, I had no idea that this many people came through here.”
Funding for the bridge came from a substantial donation provided by lifelong Mountain Brook resident Michael Mouron and his wife, Kathy, through the Mouron Family Foundation. Mouron noted that the bridge will be something that his three sons and eight grandchildren can enjoy.
Mouron said the bridge also pays homage to the armed forces.
“This bridge is dedicated to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces,” he said. “I don’t think we can ever do enough or say enough about that. we wouldn’t be here enjoying this otherwise.”