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Demolition of Iconic Covered Bridge Scheduled

Seen on WOOD TV Grand Rapids, Michigan

Van Buren County ‘Icon’: Kal-Haven Trail group works to save covered bridge by: Kyle Mitchell Posted: Jun 26, 2023 / 06:12 PM EDT Updated: Jun 26, 2023 / 06:20 PM EDT

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A plan to eliminate a covered bridge on the Kal-Haven Trail has drawn criticism from some community members.

The covered bridge’s elimination is part of a larger project to restore a section of the Kal-Haven Trail near South Haven. That section of the trail will close when project work starts on July 10.

The plan to get rid of the covered bridge has proven controversial.

The cover for the bridge, which spans the Black River, has been in place for more than 30 years, according to Jeff Green, chair of the Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail. The bridge was built on top of a former railroad track.

“It’s become an icon of not just the Kal-Haven Trail, but of South Haven and southwest Michigan in general,” Green said.

Green is calling for a similar cover design to be built on the replacement bridge.

“We immediately began talking to the (Department of Natural Resources) about a replacement for this bridge, so that when this is gone and their new bridge is in place, we can put a new cover on it, reminiscent of this one,” Green said. “We ran into resistance right away, and we don’t understand why this wasn’t planned from the very beginning.”

Green said some in the community have offered to contribute and raise money for a cover to be built and that saving the structure would not be feasible.

“This isn’t asking for something hard. This isn’t asking for the state to reach into their pockets. This isn’t asking for the state to start a new program. This isn’t asking the state for new funding,” Green said. “This is asking the state to allow us to continue having this icon that’s here into the future.”

The $6 million Kal-Haven Trail project will use federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to resurface the trail on a section from South Haven to Bloomingdale. It will also make improvements to the trailhead and parking.

The DNR declined to speak with News 8 on camera, but the department wrote in a statement: “In the original design we explored prefabricated cover designs and they were not acceptable to the community committee. … If they did raise funds, it’s possible that a cosmetic bridge cover could be added at a later time.”

The DNR continued that if a cover were to be added, there would be additional costs to cover abutment assessments, which would determine the cover designs that could be installed.

“Do I have hope? Right until the end, because anything can happen,” Green said. “And when it comes to government and community action, you probably shouldn’t underestimate the power of community when it comes to getting things they want.”

The bridge is scheduled to be torn down in mid-August. New bridge structures are expected to arrive in October.

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