Motor Mill bridge celebration


Motor Mill bridge celebration


Over 250 adults and children recently enjoyed touring, hiking, face painting, a slide presentation, aquatic education programming, games, food, live music and other fun activities at the Motor Mill Gala.

John Nikolai, president of the Motor Mill Foundation; Jim Langhus, chairman of the Clayton County Conservation Board; and Tim Engelhardt, director of the Clayton County Conservation Board, welcomed and thanked the audience for attending.

The celebration honored all of the partners and the projects that have helped preserve and develop the site since 2002. The 155-acre Motor Mill Park site, five limestone buildings and the Motor Mill Bridge were purchased by the Clayton County Conservation Board with assistance from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Board in 1983. The Motor Mill Bridge was reopened on Dec. 8, 2012.

Using modern materials and construction techniques, the new high-tension bridge was reconstructed to look like the pin-connected Pratt-through truss bridge that was washed away in a devastating flood in 1991.

Engelhardt noted, "Restoration of the bridge has reduced travel to the bridge from seven miles of gravel to two miles of gravel, making the whole site more appealing for visitors."

Mark Ackelson, director emeritus of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and Don Menken, former Clayton County Conservation board director, spoke to the crowd about how the organization worked together to acquire the site for the public. Members of the Klink and Johnson families, who had owned the buildings and farm before it became a public park, were introduced and thanked for their part in the preservation of the site. Les Klink noted that his father recognized the significance of the site and would be very proud of what the Motor Mill Foundation has worked with partners to accomplish.

Engelhardt recognized photographer and Iowa author Larry Stone for his dedication to the Motor Mill Park.

Decorah native and freelance photographer Jessica Rilling joined the celebration. She had recently drawn attention to the  Motor Mill Park when she submitted a photograph of Motor Mill that was selected for the cover of the 2013 Iowa Travel Guide. She presented a poster-sized, signed copy of the photograph to Tim Engelhardt. 

Lora Friest, executive director for Northeast Iowa RC&D, explained to the crowd how Rilling's photograph was taken during a photo shoot for the River Bluffs Scenic Byway.

She also noted that 65 percent of visitors looking for travel information on the Iowa tourism website are looking for information about Iowa's Scenic Byways and that once those visitors travel to the byway they are looking for historic sites to visit.

Friest thanked the Motor Mill Foundation and the Clayton County Conservation board and staff for their dedication to the site and noted they were "some of the most persistence people” she knows.

Northeast Iowa RC&D helped the partners secure a $463,000 REAP grant for the bridge restoration, as well as grants to help with restoration of the mill roof and for water and land trails at the site. 

Robin Bostrom, project coordinator for the Turkey River Recreational Corridor, recognized the importance of the site to the Turkey River Recreational Corridor, which was selected as the first and only multicounty river corridor in Iowa to be a designated as an Iowa Great Place.

This year, Motor Mill was honored by Silos and Smokestack as the “People’s Choice Site of the Year” and recognized for “Outstanding Preservation in Agriculture.” Candy Streed, program and partnership director for Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, recognized the site and presented the awards at the event.


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