$260K renovation underway to turn Delphi's Monon High Bridge into pedestrian trail

Major changes are underway at the place near where Abby Williams and Libby German were found dead.

Posted: Feb 12, 2020 6:53 AM

DELPHI, Ind. (WLFI) — Major changes are underway at the place near where Abby Williams and Libby German were found dead. 

The teens were enjoying the nature out at Delphi's Monon High Bridge when they were killed in February 2017. Now in February 2020, developers are bringing new life to the historic bridge known for its tragic past.

The Monon High Bridge, just east of Delphi

A new sketch, video and more audio of who police believe is the suspect in the Delphi double homicide was released on April 22, 2019. Provided by Indiana State Police

The trail leading back to the bridge is blocked off, and has been since just after the killings. Many people think it's because of the homicides, but actually $260,000 worth of renovations are happening on the Monon High Bridge.

The High Bridge was part of the Monon Rail Line built in the 1890s. It crosses Deer Creek about 60 feet up from the water. It is Indiana's second-longest and third-highest railroad bridge. The last train ran across the line in the 1980s, and it has been sitting since. 

Related: Bonus drone video of Mary I Gerard Nature Preserve and Monon High Bridge

The ink was drying on an ownership change when the events of Feb. 13, 2017 happened. The bridge ownership actually transferred from CSX to Indiana Landmarks just a few days after Abby and Libby were killed.

"We pulled off any activity out here," said Director of Indiana Landmarks Tommy Kleckner when he found out about the homicides. "We held off on pre-development work, soil testing, surveying, knowing that investigators needed to be able to do their job."

Now three years later, the bridge is becoming a pedestrian trail. Thanks to a grant from North Central Health Services, crews have just finished repairing a damaged pier. The next phase begins early this summer.

"It's a beautiful natural area that has been an attraction for decades and decades, over a century," said Kleckner. "Once it is finished, it will be a destination."

The western third of the Monon High Bridge, about 300 feet in total, will be decked and rails put up. Indiana Landmarks said the eventual goal is to finish the entire bridge with a path that connects back to Delphi on existing roads.

"Following February 2017, trail safety became a really important issue, said Kleckner. "Our motivation before was really preservation. Following those events, it became preservation and trail safety."

The City of Delphi is working on the project as well. A $1.2 million grant from the state will help pave the trail, widen it 10 feet and help with soil erosion.

"It's one of the assets this community has that a lot of others want to emulate," said Delphi Mayor Shane Evans. "If you see the successful communities in the state of Indiana, they're trying to put trails in. They're trying to make it pedestrian friendly, biking friendly."

The public trailhead can be accessed from the Freedom Bridge crossing the Hoosier Heartland Highway, or from the Mary I. Gerard Nature Preserve off County Road West 300 North. Trail cameras and mile markers were installed along the trails since the killings.

Despite the tragic past, Indiana Landmarks said people are on board for a new future.

"There has not been resistance," said Kleckner. "The community has really been supportive of this effort. Those events did provide greater motivation to move this forward to make sure we are successful at completing this and with greater sensitivity."

The bridge is currently on private property, so Indiana Landmarks say you are trespassing if you go back there. Once finished, ownership will be given to the canal association to become part of the public trail.

A grand opening of the bridge is expected in late summer of 2020.

Police say 50,000 tips have been submitted so far in the investigation. Email abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com with any information in the killings of Abby Williams and Libby German.

Thursday on the 3-year anniversary of when the girls went missing, we take our questions about the investigation directly to Indiana State Police's Superintendent. We will tell you where it stands three years later, Thursday on News 18 This morning.

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