Lake Norman & Mooresville

Troubled bridge over water finally complete

Davidson Mayor John Woods speaks during the opening of the new boardwalk at Roosevelt Wilson Park on June 8.
Davidson Mayor John Woods speaks during the opening of the new boardwalk at Roosevelt Wilson Park on June 8. TOWN OF DAVIDSON

How do you turn a pond into a lake without adding a drop of water?

Davidson officials can now hear the punchline without feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut.

When the town dedicated a rebuilt boardwalk this month on Griffith Street, along the edge of the Roosevelt Wilson Park pond, it marked the official end of what Mayor John Woods only half-jokingly called “the project from hell.”

Here’s why: In the summer of 2013, after tearing out a 16-year-old pedestrian bridge that had become a collection of warped boards, exposed nails and protruding splinters, contractors began work on what then was supposed to be a $53,000 project to replace the heavily used wooden structure.

The new bridge, like the old one, would connect the sidewalks on each side of the pond, allowing walkers, runners and cyclists to avoid having to navigate that section of one of Davidson’s busiest roads. Workers had barely begun to construct the frame of the replacement structure when the town’s public works director, Doug Wright, got a call from Duke Energy.

The company’s message? Stop work on the bridge now.

Why? Because the portion of Lake Norman east of the Interstate 77 causeway known as Lake Davidson runs under Griffith Street through a culvert and feeds the pond, making the seemingly inland lagoon part of the Norman chain of lakes.

And that made the guidelines for any construction over or along the pond about as murky as a muddy cove.

What appeared to be a simple fix requiring a single permit from Mecklenburg County then became a bureaucratic quagmire through which Wright and the town would slog for nearly a year.

The project would eventually require approval from Duke Energy; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Division of Archives and History at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources; the Division of Parks and Recreation, Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Resources at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources; the Catawba Indian Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Office; the Lake Norman Marine Commission; and Mecklenburg County.

The town finally secured the permits in June 2014 and announced work would resume on the project two months later.

But not so fast. Not on the project from hell.

The town learned that the contractor, Mozeley Construction, had lost its contractor’s license. The town turned to the second-lowest bidder on the project, Waterside Docks, but the change also came with a price tag of nearly $80,000 instead of the original $53,000.

With a $25,000 grant from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation helping to cover the cost increase, the contractor finally began work on the walkway in December.

Nearly three dozen citizens joined Woods, Wright and other town officials on the walkway for its June 8 dedication.

“It’s been a painful 18 months for us,” Woods said a week later during a Town Board meeting.

That pain earned Wright an unofficial addition to his title.

“I’m calling him the czar of bureaucratic agencies,” Woods deadpanned.

John Deem is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for John? Email him at john.deem@outlook.com.

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