An aging, concrete arched foot bridge that spanned Lake Le Fer on the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has been removed.

The bridge, built around 1922, was cast in several sections that became disconnected, causing engineers in 2014 to call the bridge unstable and irreparable. Metal bars in the bridge deteriorated, leaving no structural framework to attach new concrete.

“It was taken down Thursday and Friday last week,” Dee Reed, executive director of marketing and communications at the college, said of the bridge, which was located west of the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine.

For years, the iconic, arched foot-bridge at the college had been the backdrop for pictures of newlyweds, prom-goers and new graduates.

The lake will soon be part of a new walking trail for the campus as part of its Pomeroy Wellness Program as well as an ecological habitat for an outdoor classroom.

In December 2014, the lake was drained to enable dredging and repairs, data collection on existing species and environmental preconditions, completed by SMWC students and faculty. Asian honeysuckle, mulberry trees and other invasive, undesirable species were identified and removed from the site.

A pier will be added for water sampling and use of a small boat to expand learning opportunities. Students will conduct soil amenity, water quality control and introduction of appropriate plant and animal species, Reed said.

In addition to the lake restoration and the creation of a walking trail surrounding the area, the Lake Le Fer project includes the establishment of the Oakley Innovation Academy, a summer camp for middle school girls.

The college will also establish a new undergraduate research program, part of an environmental science major. College students will participate in a summer research program, which during the first two to three years will include creating an inventory of diversity and contamination, comparing it with previous and post restoration levels. Data will be collected on fish, insect, bird, reptile, plants, and amphibians. Water and soil quality will be examined in and around the pond.

“It will be another destination location on our campus that the community can appreciate,” Rachel Leslie, vice-president for external relations, said in a statement. “The revitalization of the space will provide a beautiful place for students, faculty, staff and the community to enjoy.”

The goal is to complete the lake restoration and walking trail by late spring.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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