Liberty University is responding to concerns near its Treasure Island property on the James River by removing the old bridge that was once the main access from the city to the 28-acre island.
The bridge, a steel structure with a wooden deck that crossed the river from a road off Rivermont Avenue, was washed out by a flood in 1985.
City councilman Turner Perrow said he shared some constituents’ concerns about the bridge with Liberty and the school immediately took action.
“I am excited about yet another example of how Liberty is partnering with the community to do something that’s going to benefit the City of Lynchburg,” he said.
Pat Calvert, Upper James Riverkeeper with the James River Association, agreed it is a “great gesture” on Liberty’s part to take care of not only an eyesore, but a navigational hazard, and to preserve the history of the area.
“We applaud LU for making the decision to do it. It’s not a cheap thing to have to do, but it’s for the betterment of the river and the community as a whole. I think it’s an appropriate response and a very welcome response, and I hope the community sees that,” he said.
The work will take up to four weeks to complete, as the bridge must first be cut apart in sections, loaded on a barge, and taken around the island to Liberty’s property on the Amherst County side of the river where a crane will lift it out.
"We are being a good neighbor and we are doing this right," said Lee Beaumont, Liberty's vice president of auxiliary services.
The island was purchased in 1962 and was first used as a youth camp, where thousands of Central Virginia youth were led to Christ. Early classes of Liberty students lived on the island and it was also used as a practice field for the football team.
Liberty also owns nearby Daniels Island, making its total island property in the James 81 acres.
The university is pursuing options for new access to the islands, which could lead to revitalization of the property and eventually create more recreational uses along this section of the James River. It is considering a possible partnership with the city to rebuild the bridge connecting Treasure Island to Riverside Park and create athletics fields on the islands that could be open for public use.