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Four “signature bridge” concepts have been proposed for the Flint Hills Nature Trail, in Council Grove, at the K-99 crossing, at the US-75 crossing, and near Ottawa. The KDWPT is hoping to transform four utilitarian bridges on the trail into special attractions and works of art in their own right. These “signature bridges” will provide users with a unique trail experience that also conveys the meaning of the land that the trail passes through. The KDWPT retained the design team of CFS Engineers and RDG Planning & Design to develop concepts for the bridges, with renderings that will be used to raise private contributions for construction:

Council Grove Bridge


The Council Grove Bridge “expresses the covered freight wagons that gave Council Grove its name. Four canopies are created with circular “hoops” to form the main wagon shape. The railings are made out the form of wagon wheels, to tie in the transportation theme. The hoops of the canopy are ringed in red LED lights, with the intention of recalling the council rings and council fires that brought native people and traders together for a century.”

K-99 Bridge


The K-99 Bridge “takes its cue from the tallgrass prairie that is found in the area, specifically at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City. We wanted to recreate the experience of wandering through the tall prairie grasses, which sometimes grew eight to ten feet tall, and the ripple of the wind as it blew through the prairie, creating waves of grass like waves on an ocean. Using gently bent steel pipes, this bridge recreates the ripple of the wind through the prairie. Carefully placed LED lights might highlight certain strands of “grass,” highlighting seed heads or mimicking the colors of the prairie fire.”

US-75 Bridge


The US-75 Bridge “makes this bridge a ‘billboard’ for the Flint Hills Nature Trail. It would express the forms and materials like limestone that make people think of the Flint Hills. In addition to stone, the bridge enhancements will take advantage of the maintenance-free elegance of stainless steel. The arcing lines that cross the center part of the bridge reflect the horizon lines of the Flint Hills. At the ends, limestone towers with glowing lights on the top are large versions of the monument signs that will mark the entrances to trailheads along the Flint Hills Nature Trail. Those monument signs were designed to resemble upside-down railroad spikes along this rail-trail and to testify to the limestone architecture found in the region.”

Ottawa Bridge


The Ottawa Bridge “concept comes from the name of the river: Marais des Cygnes or ‘Marsh of Swans.’ The design team focused on how swans take off and land in the marsh and, more specifically, on the forms of the wings. We wanted to contrast the strong architecture of the bridge with the softer, organic form of the swan wing and feathers. The railing for the bridge repeats the same swan wing form.”

If you have opinions on these design concepts, please leave comments on the Flint Hills Nature Trail Signature Bridges page.

What is a Signature Bridge?

A signature bridge is a bridge that’s been enhanced with art and symbols to tell a story, create an experience, and draw people to the trail and its surrounding communities. Signature bridges can be artistic masterpieces that express a region’s history and interpret its culture. But they are also economic development engines, drawing tourists from around the region and even the world to ride the trail and visit its communities and countryside. They often spark private investment in nearby towns, as the increased number of users look for places to stay, eat, drink, visit features, and purchase goods and services. They also benefit local residents, providing areas of delight and active recreation like running, biking, and hiking.

Signature bridges come in all forms and sizes and can be made with a multitude of materials. They are also often intended to be used day and night. During the day, the forms and materials provide an ever-changing shadow display for the user. At night, customized lighting provides a completely different experience.

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