(Photo by Yvette Orozco/Houston Chronicle)
Spending to restore the historic structure, the last remaining truss bridge built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, was the subject of controversy, but the city of Deer Park went ahead with the project using hotel-occupancy tax funds. The bridge stands on The Battleground course, which has ties to the Battle of San Jacinto that led to Texas’ independence, with a marker from the Texas Historical Commission.
After the recent completion of a $436,450 restoration project, the historic 128-year-old Pratt truss bridge has reopened at The Battleground at Deer Park Golf Course in Deer Park, Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported.
On a recent afternoon at the golf course, a few regulars took turns going back and forth across the bridge via golf cart over the creek that divides the sprawling grounds, the Chronicle reported.
The bridge had sparked debate for years among city officials and residents over whether costs to preserve the bridge were worth it, but Roy Iltis, a frequent visitor to the course, believes the restoration was a no-brainer, the Chronicle reported.
“Why would anyone want to let something like that completely deteriorate away?” Iltis asked. “I have a thing for old bridges anyhow, and so whenever I see them around the country, I always hope they can save it.”
Earlier in 2019, the Deer Park City Council approved the project to save the bridge after resistance from some who watched as the city provided money over the past decade to maintain the structure, the Chronicle reported.
The council approved more than $471,000 for that restoration project in February using hotel-occupancy tax revenue, which can be allocated for historic preservation projects, but the total cost ended up being $436,450, the Chronicle reported.
“We are pleased that the historic Pratt truss bridge repair project is completed and that it came in under the anticipated cost,” said Sherry Garrison, a Deer Park city council member and chairperson for the city’s historical committee, who has been a longtime supporter of the bridge’s restoration.
Earlier this year, Garrison noted the city would not be spending property tax dollars for the project and would instead rely on hotel-occupancy tax funds, which can be used for projects that have historical significance to the city, the Chronicle reported.
The Pratt truss bridge was built in 1891 and was brought to the city in the 1990s from Coryell County as part of a $125,000 grant for which the state spent $100,000 and the city spent $25,000, the Chronicle reported. The bridge, which spanned the Leon River in Coryell, is the last remaining bridge built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Co. It now stands on the Battleground course with a marker from the Texas Historical Commission.
Characterized by an iron foundation and set on a rigid framework, truss bridges were built in the 1800s and early 20th century, the Chronicle reported. Most of the restoration for the Battleground bridge centered on its structural foundation.
City officials have estimated that in the last decade more than $270,000 has been spent to maintain the bridge, including having a contractor reconstruct decking, add safety rails and install pilings that support the span’s weight, the Chronicle reported. The bridge now is only used for pedestrian traffic.
For the city 12 miles southwest of Houston that lays claim to being the “birthplace of Texas,” the bridge fits right in, another avid golfer, Nancy Kelly, told the Chronicle.
“When I first moved here [in 1961], Deer Park was a flat, ugly gravel-road place, and this bridge and this golf course adds so much meaning to this community,” she said.
Kelly, a retired teacher, was passionate about showing her second- and third-grade students the history of the region, and she feels the Pratt truss bridge adds to that legacy, the Chronicle reported.
“I made my students understand that this was a very important place in Texas; so I think the restoration was worth it,” she said.
Deer Park opened the golf course and the bridge in tandem in 1996. The Battleground course was named after the Battle of San Jacinto, which was waged not far away from the property on April 21, 1836. General Sam Houston led his troops to defeat Mexican General Santa Anna in a skirmish that lasted only 18 minutes. It marked the end of the Texas Revolution and the formation of the independent Texas Republic.
To commemorate the event, the Battleground course has given each of its 18 holes a name associated with the battle, and each tee has a marker describing the story behind each hole’s name. Each name recognizes a person or device involved in the fight; for example, the 11th hole is named “Sherman” after Sidney Sherman, who directed the left wing of the Texas Army and has gone down in history as the person who coined the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo.”
C+RB featured Rodney Crow, the Superintendent of the Battleground course, which is managed by Touchstone Golf, in a “Super in the Spotlight” profile in its February 2016 issue (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/face-time-2/).