Cass County preservation project receives state honor

POKAGON TOWNSHIP — A group of local businesses and organizations were recently acknowledged by the state for their preservation efforts.

The Michigan Department of Transportation, Cass County Road Commission, Pokagon Township, OHM Advisors and Hardman Construction were awarded Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation this month for the rehabilitation and relocation of the M-86 Pony Truss Bridge in Cass County.

The Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation program was created by the State Historic Preservation Office to celebrate outstanding historic preservation achievements that reflect a commitment to the preservation of Michigan’s unique character and the many archaeological sites and historic structures that document our rich past.

The project was one of five awarded with Governor’s Awards by the state, including Dearborn, Flint, Detroit and Charter Township of Alpena.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to recognize the recipients of the Governor’s

Awards for Historic Preservation,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “These historic places, spread across the state, demonstrate our state’s unique past and reflect the innovation, resiliency and pride we all share in calling ourselves Michiganders.”

According to the MEDC, the bridge was built in 1923 and originally located in Wayne County. Due to an increase in Detroit area traffic, the bridge was repurposed and reassembled in 1938 over the Prairie River in Saint Joseph County to carry M-86 traffic for the next 75 years.

The bridge’s replacement was planned in 2011 after it was deemed it no longer met necessary standards. A site was selected on Crystal Springs Road over the Dowagiac River in Cass County, which allowed the bridge to be rehabilitated with rivets thanks to its limited traffic location.

The bridge was disassembled, cleaned and parts were replaced when necessary before  reopening to traffic in 2018.

“Historic resources and archaeological sites tell us about the past and help us maintain Michigan’s unique identity. Their preservation is vital to Michigan’s present and future as they contribute to vibrant communities and our understanding of the past,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “Each year during Nationa Historic Preservation Month the Governor’s Award program gives us an opportunity to recognize outstanding historic preservation achievements reflecting a commitment tothe preservation of Michigan’s neighborhoods, downtowns, and countryside, as well as the state’s unique character, and the preservation of cultural resources that document Michigan’s past.”

National Historic Preservation Month was established in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help local preservation groups, historical societies, and communities promote historic places and heritage tourism and to demonstrate the social and economic benefits of historic preservation.

This year’s award recipientsspearheaded projects that saved special places, increased economic activity and continue to educate residents and visitors about Michigan’s history.

“Historic preservation is a vital component of our efforts to develop attractive, vibrant and resilient communities where talent wants to live, where businesses want to be and where people want to travel to,” said MEDC Chief Operating Officer Amanda Bright-McClanahan. “Today’s awardees have demonstrated their commitment to historic preservation in the true spirit of Pure Michigan, helping us preserve the historic places throughout Michigan that make our communities so attractive and meaningful to us all.”

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