In the next two to three years, Wytheville should have a new park in the southern part of town by the old Reed Creek Mill.
Over the course of several years, the town has received $900,000 in grant money to refurbish the historic truss bridge that crosses over Reed Creek. Several landowners have donated land near the bridge that will be turned into a park.
Eventually, the town would like to add a landing area so park patrons can launch canoes in the creek.
The town is awaiting word from the Virginia Department of Transportation, which supplied the grant money, to begin the bid process to refurbish the bridge. Assistant Town Manager Stephen Moore said that once the bid is awarded, bridge work will take about 18 months. Completion of the park will take another six months, he said.
The town is matching 20 percent of the VDOT grant money amount through land values and a $75,000 grant from the Wythe-Bland Foundation. The landowners who donated property for the park are Rusty Jones, Connie Martin and Bob Downey, who is restoring the Reed Creek Mill property beside the bridge.
Once complete, the bridge and the nearby abandoned road bed will become a pedestrian route.
The Pittsburgh Bridge Company built the bridge in 1881; it is the VDOT Bristol District’s oldest documented bridge.
Town officials believe the restored bridge will further document the history of transportation in Southwest Virginia and complement two other town projects: the restoration of an early 1900’s service station and transportation museum on Tazewell Street, completed in 2011, and the Heritage Walk that links the town’s parks, museums and historic areas.
The creekside park will feature information on the history of bridges, particularly the steel truss bridge.
The town has committed to providing the site work for the project, including paving, shelter construction and landscaping.
Half of the bridge is in Wytheville and the other half is in Wythe County, which is also helping support the project.
As part of its plan for the area, the town is considering renaming the road that runs by the bridge. Currently, the road changes names three times – running from Sixth Street to Clay Street to Church Street – before drivers arrive at the bridge.
Officials think it would be simpler for people to travel on a road that had one single name and are considering renaming the road Barrett Mill Road since that is the name of the roadway when it leaves the Town of Wytheville and enters Wythe County. The town has mailed letters to the 28 families that live along the road to get their thoughts on the issue.
To reach Millie Rothrock, call 228-6611, ext. 35, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.