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Four years after the Elkhorn River flood devastated the area, the historic Neligh Mill Bridge is officially open thanks the generosity and dedication of many.
Over 80 people attended Sunday afternoon's ribbon cutting and dedication at the bridge beside the Neligh Mill Historical Site.
“It’s a great day for the City of Neligh,” said Jeri Anderson, mayor of Neligh. “We’ve been waiting for this day for four years. Having this bridge open again is wonderful for our kids, citizens, businesses and anyone wanting to go to south. It’s great for those wanting to go to the tree dump, Russell Park and to the airport.”
After Anderson cut the ribbon to signify the bridge's opening, the first vehicle and pedestrians cross the bridge. Joan Miller rode across the bridge with the ashes of her late husband, Jerry Miller, who was instrumental in the bridge's repair and was one of many donators.
Anderson said Miller regularly attended meetings until his death and was an advocate for finding ways to raise the necessary funds for the bridge completion.
"It was his dying wish to be the first to ride across the bridge in his new car," Anderson said. "And he was. Joan brought his ashes, and he was the first across the bridge.
Fittingly, the first pedestrians across the bridge were Anderson and her husband, Dennis. They were followed by Neligh residents and many former residents who returned for the dedication.
Also on hand were city attorney Jim McNally and family, city clerk Dana Klabenes and family, city superintendent Dean Bly and family, economic development director Greg Ptacek and family, Neligh Mill director Harv Ofe and family, and city council members Dale Wilkinson, Leonard Miller and Stephanie Wanek.
Tiffany Settles from Sen. Deb Fischer's office, Bob Puschendorf, associate director of the Nebraska State Historical Society and officials with the Neligh Chamber of Commerce were also on hand.
"I'm pleased to see the community coming out and saving the bridge," Puschendorf said. "This is an important part of the Mill complex. It's wonderful to move forward and preserve the bridge after the flooding four years ago made it unusable."
The original 140-foot bridge was built in 1910 by Western Bridge and was the first bridge over the Elkhorn River west of Norfolk, according to the Nebraska State Historical Society.
The bridge repair was funded through a $650,000 grant that was made by a foundation that wishes to remain anonymous, along with donations by private citizens.
Several children held signs and thank you cards for the anonymous donor.
The sign commemorating the dedication is placed near the Mill's historical market. The sign was purchased from 319 Graphics & Ts in Neligh.