The Big Willow Park is a plot of land centered on a wetlands area that was
flooded in the late 1800s by the mill pond that was impounded by the Saint
Albans Mill dam. The eastern segment of this plot is occupied by a large
public works facility and a series of sports fields. The western segment
is a natural area that features a series of trail loops. Some of these
trails follow an old railroad bed from the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad,
while others parallel and cross under the busy BNSF Railroad mainline.
The park was developed in 1977 as a joint project of the City of Minnetonka
and the local Jaycees Club. Funding was provided by a federal grant. The
project was widely recognized as an outstanding urban environmental project.
The bridge crosses the Minnehaha Creek connecting the trails on the north side
of the creek to the parking area along Minnetonka Boulevard. The bridge
features two large laminated wood beams. While it is showing some age, the
structure is holding up very well. Now that the park is 30 years old, the
city embarked on a project in 2007 to update the park and refurbish the
trails. Goals include adding additional trail loops, raising some trails that
are prone to flooding, and optimizing the parking at the sports fields.
The photo above is looking northwest down the length of the bridge deck.
The photo above is the upstream southwest face of the bridge, while the
photo below is the downstream northeast face of the structure. Both
views are from the south bank of the Minnehaha Creek.
The photo above is a view from the south corner of the structure. The
photo below is looking southeast down the length of the bridge deck. The
low sun angles in the late fall make for some very long shadows.