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Flint Hills Nature Trail Signature Bridges

Flint Hills Trail
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UPDATE: The graphics for the four signature bridges have all been updated due to your excellent feedback. Please take a second to review the bridges again and let us know if we’re moving in the right direction.

Thank you for taking a few moments to review some of the early concepts for the Flint Hills Nature Trail Signature Bridges. We’re looking for your feedback to make sure that the concepts we have developed are moving in the right direction and are telling the right story.

What is the Flint Hills Nature Trail?

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is a 117-mile long multi—use rail-to-trail project from Osawatomie to Herington. The trail is being improved by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) and is managed by the Kanza Rails-Trails Conservancy. It is the longest continuous trail in the state, and also connects to the Prairie Spirit and future Landon Trails, creating one of the best trail networks in the country. The Flint Hills Nature Trail will also provide its users with the experience of being in the nation’s largest preserve of native tallgrass prairie and is likely to attract visitors from around the world. Trail construction is currently underway on the eastern end of the trail, and will progress further west in the coming years.

As part of that project the KDWPT is hoping to transform four utilitarian bridges on the trail into special attractions and works of art in their own right. These “signature bridges” will provide users with a unique trail experience that also conveys the meaning of the land that the trail passes through. The KDWPT retained the design team of CFS Engineers and RDG Planning & Design to develop concepts for the bridges, with renderings that will be used to raise private contributions for construction.

What is a Signature Bridge?

A signature bridge is a bridge that’s been enhanced with art and symbols to tell a story, create an experience, and draw people to the trail and its surrounding communities. Signature bridges can be artistic masterpieces that express a region’s history and interpret its culture. But they are also economic development engines, drawing tourists from around the region and even the world to ride the trail and visit its communities and countryside. They often spark private investment in nearby towns, as the increased number of users look for places to stay, eat, drink, visit features, and purchase goods and services. They also benefit local residents, providing areas of delight and active recreation like running, biking, and hiking.

Signature bridges come in all forms and sizes and can be made with a multitude of materials. They are also often intended to be used day and night. During the day, the forms and materials provide an ever-changing shadow display for the user. At night, customized lighting provides a completely different experience.

High Trestle Trail Bridge near Marion, IA The High Trestle Trail Bridge near Marion, Iowa

What’s been done so far?

With the help of local stakeholders, the KDWPT and the design team have created early concepts of all four signature bridges. We developed these concepts after several site visits, table discussions with local historians, community meetings, and lots of scratch paper. We now need your help to ensure that our initial concepts are moving in the right direction.

Please know that the concepts are just that: concepts. None of the concepts are final and all are open to critique. While the three-dimensional images that have been created may look finished, they were created to just share the initial concept thoughts. You should view them almost like cardboard models that describe ideas and form, and are meant to begin a conversation.

Also note that materials have not been chosen for any of the bridges. We’ve used the color white to highlight the improvements to the bridge, but we do not intend to paint all of the improvements white. In fact, in order to keep maintenance of these facilities as easy as possible, we’re looking at using durable, long-lasting materials that will not require repainting.

How can I help?

The following pages show early conceptual images of the four signature bridges that are found along the Flint Hills Nature Trail. We’ve provided a couple images of each signature bridge as well as a brief description that shares the story behind each concept.

We’d like you to share your thoughts on what you see. Are we telling the right story? Is there a theme or concept that we’re missing or that is too vague? Are there improvements to the bridge that you’d like to see? Are we missing any key opportunities? Please leave your feedback in the comment boxes. That information will help us move forward toward making the best bridge for your area.