Chamber ambassadors and community leaders came together on Monday, July 12, to celebrate the completion of a portion of the CeMar Trail project. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place on the reconstructed former railroad bridge that spans Indian Creek. The trail is part of a project that will eventually connect Uptown Marion to downtown Cedar Rapids. This bridge will also serve as a vital link along the Grant Wood Trail which creates an east/west trail connection through the City of Marion into surrounding jurisdictions.

Bikers and walkers blaze across new CeMar bridge

Bikers wait to test out the new CeMar trail.

Once a staple in Marion, the Milwaukee Railroad served the community for decades. The bridge was first built in 1915 and has been a hidden giant since the last passenger train rolled through Marion in 1971.

With new piers, its original girders and fresh paving, the reconstructed bridge takes on new life for pedestrians and bicyclists and pays tribute to Marion’s railroad history. This portion of the trail was officially reopened after the ceremony, reinstating the Boyson Trail which has been closed for about a year. Some seasonal work remains but should not require full closure of the trail.

Bikers and walkers blaze across new CeMar bridge

Work on the fourth phase of this project, the artistic gateway to be constructed by local artist Cara Briggs Farmer, owner of Synergy Metal Works in Marion, is expected to begin within the next month.

The design has to “do double duty” by being pleasing to those walking/biking/running the trail and to the motor traffic on the street. Farmer’s four lighted towers with sweeping arcs going around and the echoing design in the railing panels fit the bill. Roughly 120 feet long and 16 feet high, it will need to be DOT compliant and made of materials that can withstand the elements for years to come.

Bikers and walkers blaze across new CeMar bridge

TOP: The sun sets behind the reopened CeMar bike trail. BOTTOM: The new design now directs walkers and bikers to San Francisco/Portland to the west, and Chicago to the east.

“I’m a big fan of attention to craftsmanship,” Farmer said. “In older homes, there’s attention to detail. The hinges are beautiful. The door knobs are beautiful, and that’s something we don’t see with modern architecture. I wanted something that would go with this town. We have a rich history with wonderful historic buildings.

“I’m also a fan of prairie school architecture. I spent a lot of time staring at the bridge, thinking about what would work, given the parameters.”

Common to the Midwest, prairie style uses broad flat lines, integration with the landscape, solid construction and craftsmanship, reflecting the endless, treeless prairies the settlers found here. Frank Lloyd Wright’s work reflected this style.

Bikers and walkers blaze across new CeMar bridge

Born in Clinton, Farmer earned her master’s in performing arts from the University of Northern Iowa, then moved to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to work as a scenic carpenter and technical director for a mid-sized, professional theater. She built, engineered, installed, rigged and sometimes designed stage scenery. Much of that was made with steel.

“I worked with some of the most creative minds in the Upper Midwest, for eight years,” Farmer said. “But I got tired of building other people’s designs and wanted to do my own thing.”

Bikers and walkers blaze across new CeMar bridge

Farmer also created the stainless steel archway above the entry to Uptown Artway, as well as made the benches, screens and planters in the alley between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

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