Memorial Park bridge

An Omaha icon will soon be feeling the city’s love.

Donors have pledged $150,000 to help renovate and restore the historic Dodge Street pedestrian bridge, City Councilman Pete Festersen and Dundee dad Nick Manhart announced Wednesday.

Combined with $150,000 in city bridge maintenance funds, the donations hit the total of the $300,000 needed to complete the work. It will be done as hoped in summer 2017, in time for the curvy green span’s 50th birthday in 2018.

Festersen, who’s also a Dundee dad, thanked Manhart and his fellow Friends of the Bridge advocates.

“It’s gratifying that so many supporters shared our vision to maintain this landmark for future generations,” Festersen said. “It’s part of our urban fabric and thousands of citizens will benefit from it every day.”

The bridge spans Dodge Street west of Happy Hollow Boulevard. It connects Memorial Park to Elmwood Park. It provides safe passage over Dodge Street’s wide river of automobiles to cyclists, walkers and students of the nearby University of Nebraska at Omaha and St. Margaret Mary campuses.

The bridge also serves a social function.

People hang banners or hold signs on it to send messages to passers-by.

The fundraising effort employed such banners. Volunteers also handed out stickers at the J.E. George Fourth of July parade with scan codes that could be used to donate. People put out donation jars at Memorial Park fireworks block parties. Backers participated in Omaha Gives.

More than 100 people gave, Festersen said.

“It was really a group effort,” he said.

The smallest donation was $10. The largest was the city’s $150,000. Major donors included the Sherwood Foundation, Eastern Nebraska Trails Network, Mammel Foundation, Bruce and Gerry Lauritzen, and Joan Gibson and Donald Wurster.

Festersen thanked the donors and backers.

“I’ve been crossing that bridge for 40 years, and I know how important it is to the fabric of the neighborhood,” he said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1057, christopher.burbach@owh.com, twitter.com/chrisburbach

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Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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